# Media Criticism

Gannett prints fake newspapers at Des Moines Register plant

Fake newspapers designed to drive Illinois voters away from Democratic candidates are being printed at the Des Moines Register’s plant, Gannett staff confirmed to Bleeding Heartland.

At least eleven printed publications, which are part of the conservative network Local Government Information Services (LGIS), have been distributed to Illinois residents since August. Sometimes known as “pink slime” journalism, such publications combine political advocacy with stories resembling neutral coverage of local news or sports. The material has the look and feel of a newspaper, but the content is more like political advertising.

Jem Bartholomew of the Columbia Journalism Review was first to report in early October that Gannett had taken over printing of the LGIS products. The previous publisher, which also owns the suburban Chicago newspaper Daily Herald, canceled its commercial printing contract with LGIS in late September, saying “Many critics cannot or refuse to differentiate between a commercial printing operation” and the Herald’s “editorial mission to be unbiased and fair.”

The Des Moines Register’s executive editor, Carol Hunter, had no comment beyond confirming in a November 4 email that “these are commercial print clients.” She provided a statement from Gannett’s corporate communications staff: “We do not discuss our commercial print clients and have no further comment.”

Continue Reading...

Self-governance: It could be worse. It should be better

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

“It could be worse.”

At the start of 2022, friends may have uttered those four words to console or comfort us.

As the midterm elections approach, those four words may be prophetic.

Every election in a democracy —from township to presidency — is threatened by voters who are ill-informed, misinformed, and/or uninformed.

Continue Reading...

How 2016 and 2020 broke political reporting and forecasts

Dan Guild is a lawyer and project manager who lives in New Hampshire. In addition to writing for Bleeding Heartland, he has written for CNN and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, most recently here. He also contributed to the Washington Post’s 2020 primary simulations. Follow him on Twitter @dcg1114.

Polling is fundamentally broken, and political forecasting is broken as a result. As a result reporting on politics is broken and focuses on minor differences in polling, rather than discussing what the candidates believe and want to accomplish in office.

Some of the biggest misses in 2016 and 2020 came from what were once thought to be gold-standard pollsters. The most accurate pollsters turned out to be firms with right-wing associations like Trafalgar. The 2020 polling misses were not uniform—they were not as large in Nevada or Georgia—and no one is really sure why. There are various theories.

Let’s start with the data.

Continue Reading...

Eight revealing exchanges from the Reynolds/DeJear debate

You have to hand it to Deidre DeJear.

Governor Kim Reynolds has all the advantages of incumbency. She has spent most of the year avoiding unscripted questions and taking credit for projects that President Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress made possible. While the challenger has struggled to get her message in front of voters, Reynolds enjoys free media coverage almost daily and has blanketed the state with (sometimes racist) television commercials for the past six weeks.

The day before the only scheduled debate between the candidates for governor—Reynolds would not agree to the traditional three—the Des Moines Register published a new Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co showing the incumbent ahead by 52 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.

In other words, the odds facing DeJear could hardly be longer.

Nevertheless, the challenger spoke with clarity and confidence throughout the hour-long “Iowa Press” appearance, using facts and personal stories to great effect. She refused to take the bait when Reynolds fell back on divisive talking points about what “they” (Democrats) supposedly want to do.

I hope voters will take the time to watch the whole program, or read the transcript on the Iowa PBS site. Eight exchanges struck me as particularly revealing.

Continue Reading...

Iowa media let Grassley, Ernst dodge on nationwide abortion ban

Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate introduced companion bills this week that would ban abortion nationally after 15 weeks, with few exceptions.

The three Republicans representing Iowa in the lower chamber—Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—all co-sponsored the national abortion ban on the day the bill was introduced.

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst dodged questions about whether they would support their colleague’s bill. And leading Iowa news organizations gave them exactly the coverage they wanted.

Continue Reading...

"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.”

Continue Reading...
View More...