The 21 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2021

It’s time for another review of Bleeding Heartland’s most widely-read posts from the year that just ended. I always struggle a bit with this task, because the work I’m most proud of doesn’t always overlap with what resonated most with readers. Also, I’m wary of watching traffic numbers too closely, because I try not to let potential clicks drive my editorial decisions.

However, I always gain some insight from this review, so here goes.

This list draws from Google Analytics data about total views for 598 posts this website published during 2021: 362 written by me and 236 by other authors. I left out the site’s front page and the “about” page, where many people landed following online searches.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2021 guest authors

During the year that just ended, 114 authors wrote or co-authored 236 guest posts for this website. Those articles and commentaries covered a vast array of topics and employed many different writing styles, from exclusive reporting to in-depth analysis to personal stories to satire. Some were among the most-read of the 598 posts Bleeding Heartland published in 2021.

As in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was a frequent touchpoint for authors; at least 28 guest posts addressed some aspect of the public health disaster.

Other state government policies inspired 40 posts, covering bills proposed or adopted by the legislature or Governor Kim Reynolds’ actions not directly related to the pandemic.

Nearly two dozen posts related to the January 6 coup attempt, the Big Lie about the 2020 election, or former President Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party.

Authors focused on the Iowans in Congress eighteen times, with Senator Chuck Grassley the leading subject.

Seventeen commentaries offered advice for the Iowa Democratic Party or Democrats generally in light of mostly disappointing election results here in 2020.

Candidates for state, federal, or local offices (or their supporters) wrote nineteen posts during the year.

Authors covered many other issues, from reproductive rights to the environment, and occasionally reviewed lesser-known historical events in Iowa or on a national scale.

I’m proud to provide a platform for progressive views and grateful for the hard work that went into creating these pieces, most of them published only at Bleeding Heartland.

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Introducing Bleeding Heartland's new tagging system

During the slow news week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I often reflect on my work and plan changes for the year to come. At this time in 2018, I was preparing to abandon the handle “desmoinesdem” in favor of a standard byline. Although I had valid reasons for choosing that pseudonym in the 2000s, I decided later that publishing under my real name had other advantages and was more transparent.

Over the past several days I’ve been implementing a change to this site’s tagging system, incorporating best journalism practices that should also make the site more user-friendly.

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Introducing the Evening Heartland newsletter

Bleeding Heartland will soon launch a newsletter for readers who want to follow the site’s Iowa politics coverage by email.

Evening Heartland will feature links to journalism and analysis published here, as well as occasional reader feedback, looks behind the scenes at Laura Belin’s reporting process, and of course, Iowa wildflower photos. The newsletter will be distributed Sunday and Thursday evenings, and occasionally on Tuesday evenings.

Evening Heartland will provide another option for readers who prefer email updates about the latest news or recent stories they may have missed. There is no fee to sign up, nor will Bleeding Heartland put any coverage behind a paywall for subscribers. Keeping all the site’s reporting and commentary available at no charge is a core value for Laura.

You can subscribe here. We will never share your email address or sell it to any third party.

Don’t want any more emails in your inbox? No problem. Readers will still be able to access everything published on the site any time by visiting Bleeding Heartland through any web browser. You can also keep up by following Bleeding Heartland’s Facebook page and Laura’s Twitter feed.

A Martin Luther King, Jr. Day resolution

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Remington Gregg reminded me of that observation today in this Twitter thread “on lesser quoted words of Dr. King and sitting in your discomfort as a white person in America.”

As 2020 began, one of my goals was to put a lot of writing energy into coverage of racial disparities or other topics particularly impacting people of color in Iowa. I got off to a decent start a few days into the year with a deep dive on Julián Castro’s critique of the Iowa caucuses, which was partly grounded in this state’s relative lack of diversity. I marked the last Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a post about an exhibit on “redlining” and other racist housing policies in Des Moines. That piece ended up among the 25 most-viewed that Bleeding Heartland published during a year of higher traffic than ever.

But as the year progressed, other pressing political topics–the Iowa caucuses and their aftermath, turnover on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa legislative session, a huge number of competitive election campaigns, and of course the the coronavirus pandemic–consumed most of my headspace.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2020 guest authors

More than 140 authors contributed to the 313 guest posts Bleeding Heartland published during 2020–a record number for the fourth year in a row. I’m proud to provide a platform for a wide range of progressive views and grateful for the hard work that went into creating these articles and commentaries.

In the 25 years I’ve been writing about politics, no event has ever dominated people’s lives and headspace like the COVID-19 pandemic. The unfolding disaster inspired many of the posts linked below. Authors raised concerns about the response by state leaders, local officials, or corporate managers. They critiqued excessive secrecy, misleading presentations of data on virus spread, and the public’s detachment from the reality of death. They shared the voices of educators whose work was upended and their own stories of personal grief. Dr. Greg Cohen’s view of the pandemic through the eyes of a rural Iowa doctor was not only the most-viewed Bleeding Heartland post of 2020, but the most-viewed in this site’s fourteen-year history.

Naturally, the election year inspired many commentaries endorsing presidential contenders before the Iowa caucuses, or discussing other state or federal campaigns. After November 3, several authors sought to identify what went wrong for Democratic candidates here and how the party can build support, especially in rural areas. The Iowa legislature’s actions (or lack of action) provided more source material.

Other authors felt compelled to write about the systemic racism, persistent inequities, and police violence that inspired a summer of protests, but left some politicians silent.

A few authors reviewed little-known or rarely remembered events in Iowa history.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2021, or if you have wildflower photos or memories to share about an Iowa political figure. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves.

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