Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Press-Citizen tone deaf to news

In Iowa City, the 21-only ordinance debate finally reached creshendo on Tuesday. The city council was poised to make it's third and final vote in favor of the measure, making 21-only the law at all bars in town beginning June 1.

As contentious as this issue has been over the years - including the fierce fight over the 21-only ballot initiative that failed in 2008 - this impending action by the council should presumably be the lead story on the front page of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

But you would be wrong.

The Press-Citizen, gaurdian of the public trust and beacon of democracy that it is, instead ran an AP wire story on Republican gubenatorial primary candidate Terry Brandstad. Six columns wide and right below the mast-head with the fat headline read: "Branstad calls for business tax cuts." The story was predicated entirely on this announcement Monday, that as governor he would cut corparate taxes, which would presumably "boost" the state's economy.

Paradigm-shattering as the idea of a Republican cutting taxes may seem (tongue-in-cheeck, folks), his opponents in the primary go farther, proposing to eliminate the corporate tax completely.

If Branstad's announcement in pursuit of state office was news-worthy enough to trump the impending passage of a hot-button city ordinance, than why did the Des Moines Register sit the "big story" in the lower-right corner, below the fold on their front page?

The Register, instead, ran a lead story, right below its masthead, on corruption charges at a Coralville nursing home (a story the Press-Citizen ignored, despite it's proximity). The Register's second story concerns a Polk County Board of Supervisors impending decision on awarding a contract to the company of a former county employee. Only after these appear does a staff-written story of Branstad's campaign announcement given any exposure.

If you are regular reader of this blog, you've heard me grind this axe before. Political campaign bluster should not trump actual acts of government, real news. And don't forget the corruption story in their own back yard they ignored. The Press-Citizen's decision to put Branstad's empty comments front and center on a news-day that held important issues at hand is tone-deaf and irresponsible.

Do they think that a politician's name and mug will simply sell more papers than actual news? If that is true, than it is an even sadder commentary on the state of the paper's news-making decisions.

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