Why you should worry about the newsroom cuts at Des Moines Register

Jason Hancock has a story up about the latest round of cuts in the Des Moines Register newsroom. The people who have lost their jobs after working hard for years have my sympathy.

I was downsized during the 1990s. It was lousy to feel that far-off management did not respect the value of my work, or indeed the work of anyone around me, since my whole department was cut.

If you don’t read the Register much, you might not care about the story. Gannett had already damaged newsgathering and investigative reporting so much over the past 20-odd years, what difference could this make?

However, the political elite of this state still read the Register, as do reporters for other media. The newspaper still has the power to set the agenda for political debate and political coverage, only it will be doing so with a more skeletal staff.

I’m not optimistic about what coverage of next year’s legislative session will look like. I don’t know whether someone else will cover the Iowa delegation in Congress the way Jane Norman did, or whether we’ll just hear less about what our representatives are doing.

Even before this round of layoffs, the Register was slow to pick up on wrongdoing at the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium. Will the Register have the flexibility to assign anyone to investigative work, or will the next CIETC scandal, or the the failure to fix the Birdland levee in Des Moines, never be properly researched?

The Cityview weekly in Des Moines publishes some good investigative reporting, but that is no substitute for a strong daily newspaper in Iowa’s capital city.

Hancock says the mood in the Register’s newsroom is gloomy. Even without being directly affected by these layoffs, I’m feeling downbeat too.

  • Don't know how to feel about this...

    I’m torn.

    On the one hand, I hate to see a great Iowa paper like the Register go down the tubes and I hate to see people lose their jobs…on the other hand, the Register made it’s own bed and now it has to sleep in it.

    It’s a vicious cycle…people don’t read the Register (in print or online) because it stinks, and it stinks because people don’t read it anymore. The Register has been given every opportunity to distinguish itself with great reporting (CIETC, Birdland Levee, UI scandals, on and on) and every time the opportunity to do really great reporting comes up….they punt the ball. Who needs to investigate the Birdland levee failure when you can just plaster Shawn Johnson all over the front page?

    Plus, it really irritates and confuses me to see the horrible quality of work coming out of the supposedly professional and college-educated journalists at the Register (and the local Gannett Press-Citizen) as compared to the great reporting and analysis coming out of citizen-journalists at sites like Iowa Independent and alternative newspapers like Cityview.

    I’ll miss Jane Norman.(Ken Fuson, I would have fired months ago). But until someone at the Register takes command and pulls it out of its nosedive, I’m not entirely sympathetic.

  • This is Wonderful News

    I for one am glad that the Register is losing revenue and cutting people – it is a terrible newspaper.

    No coverage for third party candidates like William Meyers and it is a bit far liberal for me.  

    When newspapers, televisions and radios go under – people have to go to blogs to get their news – it is the future.  

    By the way, Des Moines Dem, I thought you would be happy that they are selling less newspapers – isn’t that mean less trees being cut down or are you just a “go green” when it is is convenient for you?  

    I know you are a hypocrit when it comes to this stuff.

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