One doesn’t have to look far to realize that that the newspaper industry is going through some tough times. Last week, Gazette Communications, which includes the Cedar Rapids Gazette, announced that it would trim a sixth of its workforce, reducing its staff by 100 workers.
This past December, the Des Moines Register also reduced staff and required its workers to take a one-week furlough. Included in the Register’s cuts was long time political cartoonist Brian Duffy. David Yepsen, the Register’s chief political correspondent, also leaves this month for a new job as the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
All of these cuts will have an impact on how and where Iowans get their news. There is a debate taking place regarding what direction the newspaper industry needs to go in order to survive. One proposal is to only offer print editions on the weekends. Other options include charging a subscription to view online content. Perhaps the most disturbing option on the table is having a newspaper be funded by private foundations.
No matter what direction newspapers take, the end result is very troubling. Either the public will be less informed about what is going on locally, or the newspapers will reflect and advance the agenda of the foundations that support it.
Iowa already has an organization which is set up on the foundation model: the IowaIndependent.com. Iowa Independent is a project of the Center for Independent Media, but there is nothing independent about the foundations that fund the site. One contributor to the Iowa Independent is the Gill Foundation. If that name sounds familiar to you, it should.
Tim Gill is a Colorado gay-rights activist who targeted State Representative Danny Carroll in 2006. Gill funneled thousands of dollars to Carroll’s opponent, Eric Palmer. Carroll was defeated, but Gill is still a major contributor to the Iowa Democrat Party and Democrat legislative leaders. Another group that funds Iowa Independent is the Service Employees International Union, a politically aggressive labor group.
The idea of the newspaper industry being funded by foundations is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, many newspapers already have a political bias. In the early days of the industry, it was very common to see the words “democrat” or “republican” associated with the name of the newspaper. In Iowa, the Quad-City Times was once called the Davenport Democrat, and the Marshalltown newspaper is still called the Times-Republican.
Most newspapers these days don’t have a name indicates their bias. The Des Moines Register has never had a name that indicated a bias, but it is widely known for its liberal views. In determining a name for this site, I decided that it was important for the name to clearly identify who the target audience is, while also communicating the viewpoint of the people who are writing the articles.
Some critics have already claimed that this site will be simply a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. That is not the case. This site will be the mouthpiece of the hundreds of thousands of Iowans who identify themselves as Iowa Republicans. There is a big difference between the two.
The Iowa Republican will counter the liberal bias that already exists in some newspapers in Iowa. If our existing newspapers offered fair and balanced coverage, a site like The Iowa Republican would not be needed. But, it is needed, and now it is here. We look forward to providing Iowa Republicans with the news they deserve.
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