IowaWatch Starts 10th Year on Feb. 4, 2019

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In late 2011, IowaWatch reporters gather around co-founder Stephen J. Berry discussing stories. Left to right, Emily Hoerner, Berry, Laura Arny, Lauren Mills Shotwell, MacKenzie Elmer.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism started its 10th year of operation after hitting its ninth anniversary on Feb. 4, 2019.

Here are some fast facts about the center, which operates the news website IowaWatch.org.

Paul Jensen of the University of Iowa.

IowaWatch co-founder Stephen J. Berry met with dozens of student journalists and representatives of newspapers from all over Iowa during the Iowa Newspaper Association convention in Des Moines Feb. 2-3, 2012. Here he tells Jennifer Moe of Northwood, Iowa, about IowaWatch’s mission.

— As of Feb. 4, 2019, the center had published 406 explanatory and/or investigative, multi-media reports, most of them from student journalists, and 240 in-depth radio reports since the first IowaWatch story was published on May 29, 2010. IowaWatch additionally published stories by Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) members; IowaWatch belongs to INN.

— Collaborations with multiple media partners include The Des Moines Register, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), The Courier (Waterloo, IA), The Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA), Mason City Globe Gazette, The Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA) and others. Collaborators also include Iowa Public Radio.

— Eighty-three IowaWatch stories published or aired 1,314 times by 77 news outlets – most of them from Iowa – in 2018. Media outlets produced 27 stories based on IowaWatch reports and sought IowaWatch expertise on developing news 53 times.

— The weekly, statewide IowaWatch Connection radio program and audience engagement project airs 26 times each weekend on 21 radio stations, with related public forums on public matters.

— Former editors of the student newspapers at Grinnell College, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and Simpson College have trained with IowaWatch.

— The Iowa center has collaborative training relationships involving student journalists from Grinnell College, the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, Cornell College, Simpson College, Drake University, Buena Vista University, Loras College, Mount Mercy University, William Penn University, the University of Dubuque and Kirkwood Community College. College journalism projects have produced stories on college debt, politics, brain drain, speech on college campuses and textbook costs.

— The center also does collaborations with Simpson College journalism class each spring to produce a statewide journalism project. This year’s topic: the struggles of small-town Iowa. Buena Vista University journalism students also periodically have produced podcasts published or aired by IowaWatch.

IOWAWATCH’S MISSION, VISION, GUIDING PRINCIPLES

— Commercial news outlets statewide have published the following IowaWatch.org stories:
Concerns about pesticide/herbicide drift in Iowa.
How Iowa handles its garbage with the disappearance of small-town dumps.
Iowa’s difficulty providing services for profound mental illness.
Iowans’ difficulty having a civil conversation about controversial political issues.
The lack of portable health insurance for migrant farm workers in Iowa.
How college students cope with high textbook costs.
Hate crimes on Iowa college campuses.
Ineffective sex assault awareness education in Iowa colleges and universities.

IowaWatch file photo

The first Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government banquet on Oct. 4, 2013, in Iowa City, Iowa. The banquet was moved to Des Moines the following year and has been held there since.

— IowaWatch is a catalyst for creating the annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Day, with organizations that include the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, Iowa Newspaper Association and other sponsors. Main speakers have been: 2013, Andy Hall of Wisconsin Watch; 2014, noted broadcaster Jim Bohannon; 2015, First Amendment Center founder and president Ken Paulson; 2016, White House government transparency expert and digital communications advisor Corrina Zarek; 2017, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News; 2018, IowaWatch co-founder Stephen J. Berry.

— IowaWatch is sponsor or co-sponsor of:
• A pending March 2019 conference, ‘The Climate of Environmental Journalism: A Regional Summit,” in Grinnell, Iowa. (co-sponsor)
• A May 2018 public forum on cultural diversity at the University of Iowa.
• A December 2018 public legislative forum (with The Daily Iowan).
  • A pending spring 2019 “citizens’ journalism” workshop in Iowa City.
• Live storytelling events that explored in 2018 living on the fringe of society and taking risks. Pending in 2019: travel.

— Selected by the Society of Professional Journalists to train a summer 2016 SPJ fellow in Iowa City.

— Thirty-six core IowaWatch graduates have jobs in places that include The Des Moines Register, The Courier (Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA), The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser, Rapid City (SD) Journal, The Portage (WI) Daily Register, POLITICO, iPhone Life magazine (Fairfield, IA), Bridge (Michigan); Magnify Money (New York), WUSA9 (Denver), KTCV5 (Kansas City, MO), InjusticeWatch.org, Alibaba Group at Northwestern University, the Davis Brown law firm in Des Moines, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

— IowaWatch is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a national group of newsrooms doing community affairs journalism and trying to build a business model for nonprofit news; the nationwide Local Independent Online News editors; and the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

(c) The Gazette, 2010. Reproduced with permission

The Gazette front page, May 29, 2010, featuring Jim Malewitz’s story about the disappearance of University of Iowa graduate student Jacques Similhomme.