# Media

More Iowa newspapers cut back on print editions

Four Iowa newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises announced on May 21 that beginning next month, they will produce print editions only three days a week.

The Sioux City Journal, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Mason City Globe-Gazette, and Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil previewed the changes in Sunday editorials. Journal editor Bruce Miller’s column was headlined, “Changes ahead in Journal content, distribution.” Doug Hines, who serves as editor for both the Courier and Globe-Gazette, and Rachel George of the Daily Nonpareil announced the move with none-too-convincing optimism about an “expanded” newspaper “coming soon.”

Starting on June 20, each paper will produce a print edition on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Subscribers to the Courier, Globe-Gazette, and Journal will receive the papers through the U.S. Postal Service, rather than delivered to their doorstep. Miller advised, “If you routinely read the print product early in the morning (and your mail doesn’t arrive until the afternoon), you may want to get in the habit of looking at the paper on your cellphone, your tablet or your computer. It’s news when you want it.”

The editorial in the Nonpareil didn’t mention a shift away from traditional delivery.

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Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments in open records suit against governor

The Iowa Supreme Court will soon decide whether a lawsuit against Governor Kim Reynolds can proceed. The ruling may shed light on broader questions related to Iowa’s open records law (known as Chapter 22), such as what constitutes a refusal to provide a public record, how courts can determine whether a government entity’s delay was reasonable, and whether any legal doctrines shield the governor from that kind of judicial scrutiny.

I am among the plaintiffs who sued the governor, her office, and some of her staff in December 2021, citing failure to produce public records. About eighteen days after the ACLU of Iowa filed the suit on our behalf, the governor’s office provided most, but not all records responsive to requests I had submitted (in some cases more than a year earlier), as well as records responsive to requests submitted by Clark Kauffman of Iowa Capital Dispatch and Randy Evans of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

The state’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case. After Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin rejected the motion last May, the governor’s office appealed. Iowa Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments on February 22. UPDATE: Video of the proceedings is online here.

A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would send the lawsuit back to a lower court, where a judge would consider the merits of our claims. A ruling in favor of the governor would mean the lower court could consider only whether the governor’s office properly withheld some records and redacted other documents released in January 2022—not whether Reynolds and her staff violated the law by failing to produce records in a timely manner.

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Whatever Fox News stars were doing, it wasn't journalism

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column. You can read Dominion’s recent court filing here, and a summary here.

We’re about to find out if the name “Fox News” has any meaning.

For two decades before January 2021, Fox News had the largest viewer audience in all of cable television. But that month both CNN and MSNBC overtook and surpassed it.

The reason? In the weeks just before the November 2020 election, some Fox News reporters started to commit journalism. They questioned the claims of some top Donald Trump campaign supporters that election equipment provided by Dominion Voting Systems was rigged to switch presidential votes from Trump to Joe Biden, thereby illegally making Biden the winner. At least 28 states used Dominion voting machines in 2020.

Not trivial.

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Iowa House votes to protect speech from frivolous lawsuits

UPDATE: Although an Iowa Senate Judiciary subcommittee recommended passage of this bill, the full Judiciary Committee did not take it up before the legislature’s second “funnel” deadline on March 31. That means the bill won’t advance this year. Original post follows.

Iowa House members voted overwhelmingly on February 9 to make it easier to counter lawsuits filed in order to chill speech.

House File 177 would create a path for expedited dismissal of meritless claims stemming from exercise of the constitutionally-protected “right of freedom of speech or of the press, the right to assemble or petition, or the right of association […] on a matter of public concern.” Such cases are sometimes called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP), because the plaintiffs’ goal may be primarily to discourage speech or media coverage, rather than to prevail in court.

The Republican floor manager, State Representative Steven Holt, said passing an anti-SLAPP law became a priority for him after the Carroll Times Herald was sued over coverage of a local police officer who had relationships with teenage girls. Holt noted that even though the libel lawsuit was not successful, the newspaper “was left with over $100,000 in debt and nearly went out of business.”

Holt said the bill was about “protecting our small-town newspapers and media outlets.” Democratic State Representative Megan Srinivas also spoke in favor of the bill, saying it was critical to protect journalists, especially those working in small communities.

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The 22 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2022

Governor Kim Reynolds, the state legislature, and Iowa Supreme Court rulings inspired the majority of Bleeding Heartland’s most-read posts from this year.

This list draws from Google Analytics data about total views for 570 posts published from January 1 through December 29. I wrote 212 of those articles and commentaries; other authors wrote 358. I left out the site’s front page and the “about” page, where many people landed following online searches.

In general, Bleeding Heartland’s traffic was higher this year than in 2021, though not quite as high as during the pandemic-fueled surge of 2020. So about three dozen posts that would have ranked among last year’s most-viewed didn’t make the cut for this post. Some honorable mentions from that group:

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Musings from a first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus critic

Dan Piller was a business reporter for more than four decades, working for the Des Moines Register and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He covered the oil and gas industry while in Texas and was the Register’s agriculture reporter before his retirement in 2013. He lives in Ankeny.

The pending end of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses will no doubt set off long nights of reminiscences covering a half-century among the state’s political/media intelligentsia. But I will step forward with a claim that is not to be challenged.

I was the first-in-the-nation critic of the Iowa caucuses. It happened entirely by accident.

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