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January 20th, 2011 |

Welcome to the Branch Office, Rick Green

We welcome Rick Green to Iowa as editor of The Des Moines Register, and we join those wishing departing editor Carolyn Washburn many joys in Cincinnati.

We’re sure both will tackle their new jobs with vim and vigor.

But...

But why does Gannett keep putting outsiders into the top news job at the Register? Why not pick someone who knows the city and the state? How is Rick Green — by all accounts a nice fellow and a strong editor — going to hit the ground running when he doesn’t know the issues, the people, the history and the rhythms of this state?

How do you oversee political coverage when you’ve never spent any time with Art Neu or Bob Ray or Sally Pederson or Joy Corning — indeed, when you don’t even know who those people are? And if you don’t know the people in the backrooms — Doug Gross and Jerry Crawford and Sue Dvorsky and Jeff Link?

How do you oversee business coverage when you’ve never spent any time with Barry Griswell or Jack Evans or Mary O’Keefe or Chris Nelson?

How do you oversee sports coverage if you don’t know Sandy Hatfield-Clubb or Fred Hoiberg or Rick Wulkow or Sam Bernabe?

How do you oversee education coverage if you don’t know Greg Geoffroy or Nancy Sebring or Ben Allen or Gary Steinke?

To be sure, there still are good reporters and a good bit of institutional memory in the newsroom — with Dave Elbert and Marc Hansen and Rox Laird and Randy Peterson and Rick Brown and the incomparable Randy Evans — but the paper relies increasingly on transients.

So why not name Randy Brubaker, the current managing editor, who has been at the Register for more than 20 years and who has been an Iowa newspaperman for nearly 30? He’s not liable to stay in the job for four years and then hope to go on to Rochester or Louisville or somewhere else.

He knows how to get hold of Mike Gronstal, how to pronounce Elizabeth Kruidenier, where to find Archie Brooks (and the good and the sad about Brooks) at noontime, that Jo Oldson and Martha Willits are sisters, that it’s MADrid and Na-VAY-duh and that Des Moines is not in Des Moines County and Jefferson is not in Jefferson County. He knows what RAGBRAI stands for — and that it’s not a race. He knows that that lawyer walking down the street was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy a couple of generations ago, and that the guy named Pappajohn is not a pizza baron.

The Register was once a destination newspaper — a place where reporters and editors hoped to spend their careers. But no longer. The last three editors averaged five years here and then went on to Indianapolis and Detroit and Cincinnati. We’ve become a branch-office town for Gannett.

And that’s a shame.

At any rate, welcome to town, Mr. Green. We hope you’ll stay long enough to unpack your bags, to realize it’s not Chillicothe or Cincinnati or Palm Springs, your previous stops on the Gannett career train. We’re Iowa. As Meredith Willson (an Iowa native, and note that Willson has two ‘l’s) wrote in “The Music Man” (“River City” is really Mason City, incidentally)....

You gotta know the territory. CV