🗞️ I need your help with something.
I want the P-C to be a paper you can be proud of. If we're going to rethink one of the most fraught parts of the industry, we're going to need some help.
February 21, 2021 | Letter. No. 35
Friday night, I seized on an open invitation to hang out on Clubhouse with Amie Rivers of The Courier and Ty Rushing formerly of the N’West Iowa REVIEW. Both are on Twitter too much. Both are bylines I’m immensely fond of.
While I was expecting a happy hour, it turned into a really interesting conversation about local news and its relationship with the crime beat. And it wasn’t short on discussing the Press-Citizens failures, the harm it has done to its community.
A reader (and writer in his own right) Jaylen Cavil of Des Moines pressed me on why local newspapers like the P-C are so slow to do the right thing: to stop reflexively taking cops at the word; to end the showcase of mugshot galleries; to stop perpetuating the spectacle of an unjust system.
Frankly, the last five years in this industry have indoctrinated more-or-less the same tired excuses for crime reporting that newspapers have made for centuries. I’m lucky that our own crime and courts reporter Hillary Ojeda has pushed me on not just what I think is newsworthy on the crime beat but why.
And we’re in a kind of interesting place. Right now, the Press-Citizen has formed a committee of reporters to envision a framework both for ourselves and the reporters that follow us. Our hope is to come out of this with a public-facing explanation for how we approach the beat and why, and importantly, what we don’t cover as part of it.
We’re trying to figure out some means of soliciting reader feedback to inform how we build this out. And if we are going to do it right, frankly, I need your help. Surveys, townhalls are not my strong suit. Even the questions we’re hoping to answer would benefit from some input.
I want to be proud of what we put together at the end of this, but I need a hand to get it there. If you have some ideas, some literature, or some complaints, drop me a line. I’d love to talk with you.
Your friendly neighborhood reporter,
Zachary Oren Smith
If you have any information on this statue, also drop me a line. I have so many questions…
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(That Helvetia’s 2008 album The Acrobats was a silent, unremarkable release is a bummer among bummers. They’re pairing of Americana guitar sounds, west coast psychedelica and echo-y distortion feels very of a time in indie music. The snare sound in “Old, new bicycle” and guitar sections are something special.)
👮 ‘Don't think I've seen anything as boneheaded as this.’ - Ojeda got some pushback last week from the University of Iowa for wondering just why it is the press and Iowa City community was kept out of its feedback process for the new public safety models. Not only were they locking us out, they decided after shopping it with the University community, it’s still protected under Iowa Code’s draft exemption to public records. Just as a note: it isn’t.
💼 Setting levels in Washington - Whether Democrat Rita Hart’s call for an investigation into the six-vote margin that elected Miller-Meeks is dismissed or taken up is purely in the hands of the U.S. House Committee on Administration. It met last week, agreed to rules for considering her petition. While Democrats—who control the committee—were quiet, Republicans didn’t waste time to threaten consequences for investigating the razor shop margin.
🗳️ Voter suppression the Io-way - Not like there aren’t a lot of important things to follow in Des Moines (check Wednesday letter), but given all the mishegas in IA-02 over ballots, absentee request forms and the like, some close attention ought to be paid to an effort to roll back some of Iowa’s early voting, absentee ballot and ballot request processes. Paul Brennan of Little Village had a write-up.
👀 ‘disclosure can cause issues’ - The Iowa auditor is seeking to… well audit the $1.165 billion utilities deal between the University of Iowa and a private company over the management of the campus power plant. Vanessa Miller of The Gazette had an excellent write-up of the back and forth between the Auditor’s office and Board of Regents.
🥩 BBQ in the storm - The Cedar Rapids BBQ spot that fed folks following the derecho, shipped off to help out in Texas. Willie Ray’s Q Shack hopes to provide 750 to 1,000 meals per day down south.
🎞️ Porn keeping the doors open - If you read one thing about now-defunct video retailers this year, make sure it’s Isaac Hamlet’s story about Family Video shuttering.
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Zachary Oren Smith writes about government, growth and development for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 319 -339-7354 or on Twitter via @Zacharyos.