# Des Moines Register



"All the news that's fit to click"

Herb Strentz laments how little news media content is geared toward having an informed electorate capable of self-government.

If the politics of the day make you uneasy or concerned with journalism aimed at entertaining, not informing, please join in this therapy session.

In the grand sweep of things, we start when, according to Shakespeare, a fatally wounded Julius Caesar uttered, “Et tu Brute?” and we end in contemporary times, as those upset with accurate reporting scream “fake news.”

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Iowa GOP candidates love state fair, shun DM Register Soapbox

Politicians love spending time at the Iowa State Fair, and many candidates for state and federal offices made multiple visits this year. But in a break with a long-running practice, Republicans seeking statewide and federal offices mostly shunned the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox.

Just three of the eleven GOP candidates invited to the Soapbox were willing to devote 20 minutes of their state fair visit to a public speech outlining their agenda. Every elected Republican official steered clear.

Avoiding the Register’s platform is another sign of growing Republican hostility toward traditional Iowa media. Other recent examples: some GOP candidates refused to meet with high-profile editorial boards in 2018 and 2020, and Iowa Senate leaders abandoned more than a century of tradition to kick reporters off the chamber’s press bench this year.

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Missing in action: Copy editors, a loss to all of us

Herb Strentz: The essence of copy editing was not catching errors in spelling or grammar, but making the news more understandable.

When writing posts for Bleeding Heartland, I’ve learned that if you don’t have a good way to introduce a topic, you can find someone who does.

This commentary is about how much we’ve lost as many newspapers have all but eliminated copy editors—people who helped reporters provide the answers and clarity you expect to find in news stories, and saved them from publishing work that raised questions and confusion.

How to sum it up? Consider Michael Gartner’s recollection from when he had just begun working at the Wall Street Journal. (This was some fifteen years before he became editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune; later he was president of NBC News and won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing as an owner and editor of the Ames Tribune.)

He recalled: “The setting is early July 1960 in the newsroom of the Wall Street Journal:

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The not-so-hidden costs of paid obituaries

Herb Strentz: Treating obituaries as news cemented ties between the newspaper and the community, and was great training for young reporters.

People may pay from hundreds to thousands of dollars these days to have loved ones’ obituaries published in local newspapers. But few if any ponder the impact “paid obits” have had on the newsroom.

As an old man (83) who grew up in a newsroom that routinely ran an obit as a news story, and published obits on everyone who died in town, I want to share some costs of today’s approach to obituaries.

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Good news, bad news

Bleeding Heartland user dbmarin is a musician, former Register reporter and sound designer. His collaboration with video artist Oyoram (7even Stories High) is currently featured at The Des Moines Art Center’s IMMERSIVE installation.

I’ll start with the good news.

It looks as if Matthew Smith, deputy superintendent for the Des Moines Public Schools, has been tapped as the interim superintendent while the district searches for Tom Ahart’s successor.

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Mercy killing

Ira Lacher‘s open letter to Lucas Grundmeier, opinion editor or The Des Moines Register.

Dear Mr. Grundmeier,

Ordinarily, I would submit this to you as a guest opinion essay. But you’ve announced that the Register, once counted among America’s great newspapers, will no longer consider unsolicited opinion pieces. CORRECTION: The newspaper will continue to consider unsolicited guest columns but will “accept far fewer” of them in the print edition.

So I share my views on this blog, which now exists as apparently the sole outlet for members of the Des Moines community wishing to make their opinions known, civilly and responsibly.

In the print edition dated March 13, 2022, you commented about the addition of a new columnist, saying: “I believe this demonstrates the Register’s continued commitment to providing forums for robust discussion of community topics.” My response, to you and the other top executives of the “media company,” which you now call yourself: No. It doesn’t. More about that later.

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