Grassley, Ernst again vote for extreme budget, hope no one notices

For the second year in a row, Iowa’s U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted to advance a budget plan that would require massive cuts to most federal government programs in the coming decade. Senator Rand Paul’s plan was so extreme that only 22 Senate Republicans–less than half the GOP caucus–supported the motion to proceed with considering the legislation.

By not drawing attention to the June 3 vote, Iowa’s senators successfully kept the story out of the news in their home state.

It was another example of a phenomenon Bleeding Heartland has flagged before: if our members of Congress don’t brag about it in a press release or a conference call with reporters, Iowa newspaper readers and television viewers are unlikely ever to learn that it happened.

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Bill Clinton's biggest "accomplishment"

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: Conservative dominance of talk radio is a major problem, and likely has contributed to declining Democratic performance in mid-sized cities and rural areas since the mid-1990s.

Do you realize how embarrassingly rare it is for a progressive voice to be heard on the so-called “public” airwaves? Unless I’ve missed something (and I hope I have), the Fallon Forum is the only progressive political talk show on commercial radio anywhere in Iowa.

That’s not only sad and wrong, it’s dangerous. Our airwaves have been sold off to a shrinking handful of corporate giants. As a result, traditional radio listeners are inundated 24-7 with a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and their ilk.

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When politicians become assignment editors

For many years, the Des Moines Register regularly published dispatches from Washington on what the Iowans in Congress were doing. Coverage deteriorated after the newspaper laid off Jane Norman in 2008. To my knowledge, no Iowa-based news organization has had a correspondent in the nation’s capital since the Register let Philip Brasher go in 2011.

In a wide-ranging review of the Register’s political reporting four years ago, I commented, “If a member of Congress didn’t brag about it in a press release, conference call, or social media post, the Register’s readers are not likely ever to learn that it happened.”

The newspaper’s recent coverage of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley illustrates that problem.

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50 good political writers over 50

I turned 50 years old this month. Ten years ago, I marked my milestone birthday by flagging “40 good bloggers over 40.” This time, I am casting a wider net to highlight not only people with their own blogs (which are, unfortunately, in a state of decline), but any political reporters, commentators, or authors who are in their second half-century.

Many writers I enjoy reading were too young to be listed here, such as Douglas Burns, Andie Dominick, Todd Dorman, Juliette Kayyem, Andy Kopsa, and a star of political blogging’s “golden age,” Atrios/Duncan Black. An early draft of this post included William Petroski, who recently retired from the Des Moines Register. His coverage of Iowa legislative happenings is missed.

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Steve Gilliard, would be in his 50s now. I’ve often wished he had lived to cover Barack Obama’s presidency and the Donald Trump disaster.

On to the list, in alphabetical order:

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Iowa House, governor have no grounds to exclude me from "press"

Iowa House Chief Clerk Carmine Boal has refused to grant me credentials for the chamber during the 2019 legislative session. Staff for Governor Kim Reynolds have ignored repeated messages seeking credentials to cover the governor’s office or an explanation for denying my request.

Under the U.S. and Iowa constitutions, no government agency or official may restrain or abridge the freedom of the press. Government bodies must apply any media restrictions uniformly, without regard to the content of news reporting or commentary. That’s not happening here.

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The 18 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2018

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for my “past life” covering Russian politics. Social media didn’t exist, and my colleagues and I had no information about which articles most interested our readers. Potential for clicks or shares didn’t factor into our story selection. We wrote up what seemed important to us.

On any given day, a half-dozen or more newsworthy Iowa politics stories present themselves, but I only have the capacity to cover one or two. I look for ways to add value: can I highlight events not covered elsewhere? Can I offer a different perspective or more context on the story everyone’s talking about?

Although chasing traffic will never be my primary goal, doing this for more than a decade has given me a decent sense of which topics will strike a chord with readers. But you never really know. Just like last year and the year before that, surprises lurked in the traffic numbers on Bleeding Heartland posts published during 2018 (353 written by me, 202 by other authors).

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