our view

Making the elephant dance

Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu has a loyal following of readers. So do we. And although 87 percent of the readers of this paper don’t subscribe to the daily Register, we realize that sometimes those paths do cross.

We rarely see eye to eye with Basu, but that’s OK. The self-proclaimed feminist challenges her readers to think in ways they may not normally do, and that is one of our objectives as well. In doing so, we apparently got under her skin last week when we were the subject of her blog. Two sentences that our publisher Shane Goodman made in his “What’s Inside” column apparently fueled her fire. The defensive Basu stated that he “blamed the growing dominance of women on newspaper staffs for a plethora of fluff news,” or, more appropriately, the Register’s demise.

The sentences? Goodman stated, “Newspapers, especially corporate-owned dailies, have become more feminine, and that is quite obvious in the pages of the local Gannett daily. As reporters spend more time writing about the hot colors of throw pillows and less time investigating crime at city hall, it creates opportunities for papers like this one.”

Setting circulation numbers aside, one might use personal opinion to argue that the Register is better than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. But to say that the paper is not focusing more on soft news is simply ludicrous, regardless of the sex of any writer. With more and more resources poured into publications like Juice and Moms Like Me, the daily has been placed on the back burner, irritating male and female journalists — and loyal readers — who remain. We have often stated that the Register has become more feminine, and have often questioned whether this is a result of the female leadership of the paper, corporate directives from Gannett or attempts from the advertising department to garner new revenue — or all three. We are guessing our choice of the word “feminine” is what bothers Basu the most. Point taken.

You may prefer today’s Des Moines Register, but there is no denying that it has changed. In a humble effort to use this as a comparative to explain our diversion with the subject of last week’s cover story, we inadvertently served, once again, as the mouse that makes the elephant dance. In its tutu, of course. CV

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