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.