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April 3rd, 2013
 

Politics of mapping stirs controversy

DES MOINES—There’s much ado about maps in Iowa.

Last week, the Des Moines Register featured an interactive Google map of Iowa school districts, providing specific detail about whether the school employed school resource or security officers and the schools’ enrollment figures.

After public outrage, mostly from conservative media outlets and Iowa parents, Register Editor Rick Green decided to pull the map from DesMoinesRegister.com.

Following an internal debate, TheIowaRepublican.com editors decided to publish information about Des Moines Register editors and executives in an attempt to provide the public with more transparency about the officials at Iowa’s largest newspaper, which often sets the agenda and tone of debate on Iowa issues.

“The tricky part out of all of this, Megyn, is that when taxpayers and residents are calling us to inquire about how safe their kids’ schools are, we have to investigate it,” Green said in an interview last week with Fox News host Megyn Kelly. TheIowaRepublican.com has received similar inquiries about what Register folks are all about.

We expected blowback, but we wanted to advance the discussion about the First Amendment and editorial decisions in a digital age where privacy has increasingly become a foreign concept to most Iowans. We also wanted to contrast First Amendment rights, which the Register vociferously defends, with Second Amendment rights, which the Register often mocks.

The Register—and its corporate parent Gannett—has consistently taken an adversarial stance against law-abiding gun owners in Iowa exercising their Second Amendment rights. For example, the Register provided a forum for former columnist Donald Kaul to call for the repeal of the Second Amendment and dragging GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to the back of the Chevy pickup until they “saw the light on gun control.”

News coverage has also reeked of disdain for gun owners and started from the premise that such individuals provided such a clear danger to society that they should be viewed with suspicion and public records detailing their personal information publicized. Essentially, the Register’s news team and editorial board takes an adversarial stance against Iowans who decide to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

We decided to highlight the Register’s self-righteousness about constitutional rights by detailing their leaders’ personal information. After all, the Register regularly exercises its First Amendment rights to demonize opponents, investigate adversaries and publish questionable information with little accountability.

“The public has a right to know who is out there using their First Amendment rights,” Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee Member David Chung of Cedar Rapids wrote in a tongue-in-cheek post. “These people should have to register [with the government] as well.”

Criticism of TheIowaRepublican.com’s decision to publish public data on Register employees has also emerged from prominent conservative voices. WHO Radio host Simon Conway opined today that TIR’s decision was wrong and called on us to withdraw the map. (For the record: TIR has not heard from anyone at the Register asking us to take the map down.)

“What the Register did was provide a shopping list for every psycho in the State. What The Iowa Republican has done is to place specific families in danger,” he wrote. “You may not like it, but the truth is that there are psycho extremists on every side of the political spectrum. How will The Iowa Republican and this story’s author, Jeff Patch, feel if one of these executives’ homes is attacked one of their children is hurt—or worse?”

Essentially, Conway’s argument is substantially similar to arguments by those on the left in favor of gun control—those who distribute guns (or, in this case, information) are responsible if someone uses that object (or information) for nefarious ends.

“These semi-automatic weapons, these assault weapons, can only kill people and in fact are threats to national security,” activist Jesse Jackson said in January. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent millions of dollars to promote gun control, has made similar arguments, blaming gun manufacturers and Second Amendment advocacy groups for firearm deaths.

The Register and alternative newsweekly CityView have published the names and addresses of Iowans with concealed carry permits. The Register’s sister Gannett publication, the New York Journal News, published a map in January detailing the names and addresses of gun permit holders. Some have argued that TheIowaRepublican.com’s decision was mean-spirited. That’s simply not the case. This writer spent two years as a correspondent and intern for the Des Moines Register and continues to hold most editors there in high esteem, despite their left-leaning views.

Nonetheless, we decided to spark a debate about the potential dangers to the public from Register editors and executives who abuse their First Amendment rights. Nonetheless, if any Register editors feel concerned that their home addresses—publicly available online at county assessors websites—put them in danger, we will consider pulling the map.

For the record, I reside at 820 17th St. in the Sherman Hill neighborhood, west of downtown. My security system includes belligerent drunks from Carl’s Place and foodie-hipsters who patrol the neighborhood after noshing at Gateway Market—plus attack dogs state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon.


About the Author

Jeff Patch
Jeff Patch is a correspondent for TheIowaRepublican.com. He's a communications, research and political consultant for Iowa candidates, causes and companies. E-mail questions, comments, insults or story ideas to jeff [at] theiowarepublican.com.




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