BySuzanne Behnke / Executive Director and Editor |
IowaWatch is delighted to introduce you to our latest staff member, Marie Nalan of Drake University. Here she shares a little about herself. You’ll see her byline soon. My name is Marie Nalan, a soon-to-be professional reporter from Grand Rapids, Minn. While I grew up in Minnesota close to the Canadian border, I have family roots in both Mason City and Clinton, Iowa.
Fifty-three years ago, I was a high school kid in southern Iowa who knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: I wanted to be a journalist. The first step on that journey occurred when I walked into the offices of the Bloomfield Democrat and introduced myself to Gary Spurgeon.
He was the editor. But Gary ended up being my “professor” at the Spurgeon School of Journalism. Working for him my final two years of high school and during vacations when I was in college, I learned lessons from Professor Spurgeon that I am now preaching to others a half century later.
Gary was motivated by a higher purpose as a newspaper editor and publisher. He believed a newspaper is much more than merely a business.
IowaWatch honored an outstanding journalist and long-time advocate for newspapers during its seventh annual banquet Thursday night, Sept. 26, at the Des Moines Marriot Downtown. Carol Hunter was given the Stephen Berry Free Press Champion Award for a working journalist, journalism group or journalism educator in Iowa. Margaret Johnson was given the Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion Award for an Iowan who has done significant open records work over several years in a role other than journalism. Hunter has been at the Des Moines Register for nearly 15 years, serving as political editor, news director and now as the executive editor of the state’s largest newspaper.
The seventh annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet will celebrate the work of those who promote open government and an independent news media in Iowa the evening of Sept. 26, 2019, at the Des Moines Marriott in downtown Des Moines.
You may read here the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism 990 tax return for 2018. The center runs the IowaWatch.org news website and educational programming for student journalists who produce in-depth reporting with IowaWatch staff journalists. The non-profit, non-partisan center, founded in February 2010, spent $134,688, while raising $125,312 in 2018, both increases over the previous year, the return shows. The center received a boost at the end of the year when donors responded to the center’s inclusion in a Knight News Match fund drive. That fund drive resulted in a $24,688 grant disbursed by The Fund for Nonprofit News at The Miami Foundation in 2019.
Several front-line state workers at the Glenwood Resource Center, a state-run institution in Glenwood, Iowa, that cares for severely disabled patients, have raised concerns about the quality of care there after a slew of patient deaths earlier this year, an in-depth report by Des Moines Register Tony Leys revealed. Fourteen Glenwood residents had died at Glenwood between June of 2018 and April of 2019 when the article was published, which staff members say far exceeds normal death rates at the facility. Staff members at the facility got in touch with Leys, who covers healthcare for The Register, “only after complaints raised internally had no effect,” Leys wrote. Current and former staff members expressed concern to Leys that the quality of care at Glenwood had diminished following administrative changes and the unexplained firing of a longtime doctor at the institution. Using Iowa’s Open Records Law, Leys was able to read the resignation letter of a physician who resigned from Glenwood and talk with a former Glenwood pharmacist who left that position because of conditions at the facility.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, or IowaWatch, has hired Suzanne Behnke to be its new executive director. Behnke, who starts in August, succeeds Lyle Muller, who will retire in September after leading IowaWatch since 2012. “Journalism and its future are my professional passions, and IowaWatch will allow me to work in both areas,” Behnke said. “There’s tremendous potential for IowaWatch to grow in depth and breadth so it can serve readers for years to come.”
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Behnke comes to IowaWatch from the Des Moines Business Record, where she has been an editor and contributor since May 2017. She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism was one of three 2018 Citizen Diplomat Award recipients honored the night of April 16 by the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities, or CIVIC. The other award recipients were Diamond V of Cedar Rapids, for business and industry, and Johnson County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass as an individual. They received the awards at CIVIC’s Fourth Annual Celebration of Citizen Diplomacy Dinner in Iowa City. The center, which runs IowaWatch.org, was cited for its work as a nonprofit organization because of the several years it has met with international journalists CIVIC brings to Iowa on U.S. visits that bring them to Iowa. The non-profit CIVIC is a community-based, member-driven organization established to create, support and sustain citizen diplomacy efforts in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area of Eastern Iowa.
UPDATED AFTER THE EVENT: Story ideas, public feedback during April 24, 2019, citizens’ journalism workshop:
You’re interested in your community and current events and wonder how news about them is reported and written. Now, you have a chance to not only learn that but to be part of a workshop that takes you through the steps of reporting, writing and editing a news story in your community. The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, which runs the news site, IowaWatch.org, will host a journalism workshop on April 24, 2019, from 6 to 8 p.m. to inform and engage the public in news reporting. The workshop, “Creative Minds: Journalism Workshop Engaging Citizens In the News,” will be in the Iowa City Public Library, Room D, at 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City. REGISTER HERE
This workshop will be open to the public but we recommend confirmation that you will attend through Eventbrite, an online event management platform.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is one of three 2018 Citizen Diplomat Award recipients announced March 4, 2019, by the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities, known as CIVIC. The center, which runs IowaWatch.org, is being cited for its work as a nonprofit organization. The center’s journalists meet with international journalists on U.S. visits that bring them to Iowa, to talk about journalism in Iowa and the United States. The non-profit CIVIC is a community-based, member-driven organization established to create, support and sustain citizen diplomacy efforts in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area of Eastern Iowa. It hosts international visitors whose U.S. visits take them through Iowa.