Latest Des Moines Register casualty: prep football fans

Ira Lacher shares his perspective on an unpleasant surprise waiting for many Des Moines Register readers on Saturday, August 25. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I was assistant sports editor of the Des Moines Register for four and a half years in the mid-1980s. As my soon-to-be bosses, sports editor Mike Wegner and managing editor Arnie Garson, explained to me during my application interview, if there was one thing that distinguished the Register as “The Newspaper Iowans Depend Upon,” it was our unparalleled coverage of Iowa high school sports.

The second-most important night of the week, besides Saturday night, when we produced The Big Peach sports section, was Friday night during high school football season. We labored mightily to get the scores and stories in from all around Iowa, beginning first with the out-state editions, and ending with the Golden Circle and Des Moines metro results.

So, imagine my shock when I saw the blurb in last Saturday’s paper saying that if you wanted to read about high school football coverage in print, wait for Sunday’s paper!

Press problem? Power outage? Other glitch that caused the lapse?

No. Apparently, the reason the Register no longer will carry high school sports news in its Saturday paper, the day after the games are played on Friday, is because the Saturday paper has been made too small and printed too early to accommodate the results.

“Specifically for Friday night football,” Executive Editor Carol Hunter wrote, in a column that appeared in the Sunday paper’s four-page Opinion section, “we think our print readers will be better served by a full report in our Sunday edition, which has our largest circulation by far, than by increasingly skimpy coverage Saturday morning.”

In other words, we’ve made our Saturday paper so rotten that there’s no room for what matters a great deal to thousands of Iowans — high school football. Can you imagine if the Register decided to do the same thing with, say Iowa caucus results? “Sorry, readers — to learn who won, wait for the Sunday paper. Or just go online.”

When the history of this era’s culture is written, it will be duly noted that newspapers royally bungled the digital revolution. Instead of trying to add more reasons to pick up the daily newspaper — by increasing space devoted to news, adding staff and writing more insightfully about subjects important to readers — the giant media companies that own newspapers chose to maximize profits by castrating their print versions. Which drove thousands of readers away. Which impelled newspapers to castrate their print versions even more. Which drove even more reasons away. So we have a Saturday Des Moines Register that doesn’t have enough space to print the sports news that Iowans — especially Iowans living in smaller towns, where high school sports remain a community treasure — want to read about.

In a state where the quality of rural and small-town broadband internet access trails that of many other states, how can the Register justify instructing their readers to visit the web?

Hunter ended her latest column with a request to contact her at 515-284-8545. I urge all you reading this to do so. At least get your comments in before you utterly give up on the institution that used to distinguish Iowa as a special place to live.

Editor’s note: If you call, please don’t vent your anger at the person who answers the phone. Most of the Des Moines Register staff didn’t have a say in this decision. They may be as unhappy about it as you are.

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  • Thanks for the Editor's note

    I’ve been a continuous subscriber to the REGISTER since 1981, so I’ve watched a lot of sad changes in the paper. I know that many good current and former REGISTER staff members have had to watch the changes too, and aren’t happy either.