The Des Moines Register reported on Tuesday that David Yepsen will be the new director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale:
Carolyn Washburn, the Register’s editor and vice president, said the newspaper would miss the veteran political writer, who has been with the Register since 1973, and the newspaper’s senior political columnist since 2000.
“As a political journalist in Iowa, David has really done it all, for decades,” Washburn said.
Yepsen has been a familiar face to Iowans. He became the Register’s senior political writer in 1983 and a full-time columnist in 2000. The Jefferson native and University of Iowa graduate also has been a host on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” since 1975, and a frequent commentator on national news programs.
The Southern Illinois campus newspaper confirmed the story.
Yepsen interviewed for his new job in December, around the time the Register imposed yet another round of layoffs in the newsroom. (Political cartoonist Brian Duffy was among those fired at that time. I’ve seen several of his cartoons in the Des Moines area weekly Cityview since then.)
Best of luck to Yepsen in his new position, and kudos to him for taking on a new challenge after so many years at the Register.
Any guesses on who will become the Register’s chief political columnist? The obvious play would be to promote Tom Beaumont from the newsroom, since he covers a lot of the political stories already. Or, they could move columnist Marc Hansen, who is a great writer, over to the op-ed page.
Given the Register’s difficult financial position, I doubt they will bring in a senior columnist from outside, but they could hire someone currently working at a different Gannett newspaper.
UPDATE: Marc Ambinder shares his reflections on Yepsen and predicts that O.Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa will be “Yepsen’s heir” as the most influential Iowa journalist during the next presidential campaign.
John Deeth (“not a Yepsen fan”) discusses the end of an era from his perspective. I agree with him about so-called objective American journalism.
SECOND UPDATE: Yepsen will start his new job on April 1, according to the SIU Saluki Times:
Asked why he sought the institute position, Yepsen said, “Paul Simon’s legacy prompted me to apply. I am really interested in spending the rest of my life in public service, teaching and working with students and working in the public policy arena.
“I am a great admirer of his and I have been to the institute and the campus several times,” he added. “I like the University and the people here. Also, I grew up in a small town in Iowa that was not far different from much of Southern Illinois. When this position came open, I thought this could be a really good fit for me.”
He said the institute presents a “nice combination of academic work and public policy work,” noting it reminds him of the Harvard Kennedy School “in terms of bringing students, academicians and practitioners together to solve problems.”
That article also quotes former Senator Paul Simon’s book about his 1988 presidential campaign:
“Every four years, the chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register becomes the most important reporter in the nation. It is a position that could cause vanity and abuse. To his credit, David Yepsen handled this position with sensitivity and balance. And he worked hard.”