Opinion

If you didn't see derecho coverage, you weren't looking very hard

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The text came last Monday, just before lunch, from my son in Des Moines.

"Severe thunderstorms here now. We're in shelter. Happy Monday."

That was my first indication that somewhere in Iowa, things weren't as calm and dry as they were here in the northwest corner of the state.

What followed were hours of reports of power outages and trees down in his neighborhood. And then Facebook was flooded with images of destruction in Cedar Rapids, millions of acres of corn flattened, and hundreds of thousands of residents without power. The destruction stretched beyond Cedar Rapids to the Mississippi and beyond.

We all learned what a "derecho" was and quickly.

Colleagues in the news business in affected areas resorted to using their cars as offices, charging up phones there, working in the dark, putting out papers on presses run by generators.

Doing their jobs.

Take a look at front pages of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cedar Valley Times, Iowa City Press-Citizen, and look at reporter's Twitter feeds as well. They show clearly that, despite tough conditions, they were on the streets, covering the news.

Doing their jobs.

Enter a smarty-pants, East Coast political columnist Josh Kraushaar, who retweeted a story from the Washington Post two days ago, with the following comment: "What happens when there's no local news a destructive derecho across Iowa barely gets reported. 'An article on the self-publishing website Medium laid bare the scope of the destruction.'"

It took 0.003 seconds for Mr. Kraushaar to be schooled by an avalanche of sweaty, smelly (no air conditioning, no hot water remember?) Iowa journalists who have been busting their collective butts for a week.

The arrogance of those who don't bother doing research before sharing their thoughts online is a disease a whole bunch of people seem to have caught.

I've heard similar garbage on Facebook from folks who are acting outraged and shocked, SHOCKED that media isn't covering the derecho.

Let's correct that.

The national, entertainment-division television which you insist on watching exclusively or which you insist on demonizing regularly, hasn't covered it.

That's not its job, you see. Those shows you are watching, in vain, for stories on actual news, are categorized as "entertainment" and as such, focused on click-bait and ratings.

Newspapers, local television news reporters, radio folks. They've been covering it, and reporting out day and night.

Doing their jobs.

The fact that fewer and fewer people understand what outlets really report on their communities, and fewer and fewer people understand the value of fact-based news, doesn't in any way make the statement "the media is ignoring the crisis in Iowa" true.

At some point, individuals need to take responsibility to seek out news sources, which are fact-based, responsible, and with a mission to serve the communities in which they reside. We're the ones who have been raising our hands, jumping up and down, reminding you, in columns like this one, what we do, and have done for a century and a half. And we are out there covering your disasters, and your triumphs.

Doing our jobs.

The reporter side of my brain was snapping photos as we headed to Des Moines on Friday to visit my son and his wife. (Their power was restored Thursday afternoon. Damage was minimal btw.) I was taking notes on the piles of trees snapped like so many pick-up sticks and interstate signs lying in the ditches five days after the wind roared through.

The Iowa farm girl side of my brain was shocked by images of mile after mile of corn fields decimated. They say 10 million acres have been destroyed, which experts are estimating means a loss to farm families of nearly $4 billion. Those are losses farmers can't afford. After all, we've been telling you, over the past months, about the cratering of livestock markets, and we've been sharing climatologist reports on the drought which has crept into northwest Iowa. We've talked to the experts. Presented the information.

You didn't see it?

You're looking in the wrong places.

We are out there.

Doing our jobs.