September 15 was a signal day in Ohio politics and journalism.

First, the Republican Rigging Ring proved true all the aspersions I cast about them in my September column ColumbusMediaInsider: The Republican Rigging Ring | The five old white guys rammed through new state legislative districts for 2022 and 2024 that were just as one-sided and just as gerrymandered as the old ones. They did not listen to the hundreds of citizens who testified for fairness and balance. They did listen to their financial backers, crony legislators, and GOP hacks.

Second, the Columbus Dispatch's beleaguered editor-in-chief, Alan Miller, fell on his sword and announced his resignation or his superiors announced it for him. A crusading editor would have told the five old white guys that if they approved another gerrymandered mess, he would singlehandedly see to their defeat for re-election. But Miller kept the coverage light and the editorial page pressure even lighter. His final act as editor of Ohio's largest newspaper and editorial head of 20-plus daily newspapers in Ohio was to cower in the shadows.

As I pointed out two weeks ago in the column cited above, the GOP is banking on two factors to maintain control of the legislature in the 2022 elections. The first factor is voter amnesia. Who is going to remember the despicable remap 14 months from now? Heck, voters are barely able to remember stuff that happened 3 months ago. The second factor is that no more than 2 and maybe none of the GOP's 116 candidates for the Ohio House and Senate who will be on the ballot were members of the redistricting panel. They can't be blamed directly. Only the five old white guys have the remap blood on their hands.

Regarding Miller, he could have been a great editor. He had the journalistic chops. He took over 6 years ago when GateHouse bought the Dispatch and editor Ben Marrison departed to be a flack for Attorney General Dave Yost. Marrison, who also had the journalistic chops, kept his job as editor by doing political favors for the Wolfe family, then the paper's owners. His major accomplishment was publishing dirt on then-Gov. Ted Strickland and sweetheart stories on Johnny Nobody (John Kasich) to get the latter elected governor in 2010.

The new owners, GateHouse, now Gannett, gradually steered away from Wolfes' right-wing-ism and cronyism, moving to the middle (endorsing Democrats, for God's sake) and then to the left after Miller let an editorial run that opposed minority set-asides and all hell broke loose in the Black community. The leftward shift alienated the once-loyal right-wing readers and they dropped the paper. The lefties (some from lower socio-economic levels with limited reading skills) did not start subscribing and so the paper entered a death spiral. The owners moved the deadline up to late afternoon to save money but that meant major news and sports stories did not appear in the next day's paper, making the paper increasingly irrelevant. This was a blatant attempt to push readers to, but there are dozens of Columbus news sources on the internet and it has not worked out.

A hoot is that the typical newspaper reader is male, older, white, Republican and affluent -- the very folks that the Dispatch is now alienating.

Meanwhile, Michael Reed, the CEO of Gannett, kept demanding more profitability and forced cut after cut in news coverage and reporting staff. I would guess that the number of journalists employed by the Dispatch is half of what it was when GateHouse/Gannett took over 6 years ago. The business section no longer has its only daily section. Sports was shrunk for 4-5 pages most days. And then this Labor Day, the Dispatch did not publish at all. Miller wrote that it was to give the employees a day off. The truth is more likely that it was a budget-cutting move to please CEO Reed., who reportedly is in line to get a big bonus if Gannett stock climbs to a certain level.

Miller's Sunday column has become more and more pathetic in recent weeks. They were not the work of a journalist, but of a public relations person trying to explain things away and begging people to support journalism by subscribing to the paper and its website. The five old white guys were in the process of running roughshod over Ohio voters with distorted legislative district maps and Miller, the editor of Ohio's largest newspaper and editorial director of Gannett's 20-plus Ohio newspapers, did not raise his voice to condemn them.

He long ago had minimized the position of editorial page editor and started calling the Sunday opinion section, The Conversation. It became a bunch of "I'm OK, you're OK" stuff. Prominent syndicated columnists were eliminated and replaced by local folks doing PR for their employer or pet project.

Ironically, Miller's next job is teaching journalism and doing PR for Denison University.

As I pointed out in my last column, Miller recently wrote that the Dispatch was gaining readers. Not exactly. That could not have pleased the Gannett power tower.

Miller's career at the Dispatch is ending with a whimper, not a bang.

Columnist Decker Should Replace Miller As Editor

Gannett announced that a national search will be held for Miller's successor. Why waste time? There is a columnist by the name of Theodore Decker at theDispatch. He is a tough hombre of a newsman who made his bones on the police beat. He writes from the heart. He calls them the way he sees them. And he writes about "them" with power and clarity.

Decker would not put up with the redistricting fiasco or any bureaucratic or corporate crap. He would hold the GOP, Ohio State, the Wexners, the Meyers, even the Zoo accountable

And he is from Pickerington, for goodness sake. You cannot go wrong with someone from Pickerington.

Reed and Gannett, give Ted Decker the job. Time is a-wasting.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,

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