our view

July 28, 2011 |

Iowa, where bike rides are front-page news


Well, it's that time again — time for The Des Moines Register to tout its most important news story of the week — a bicycle ride. Yes, it's not just any bicycle ride. We get that. It is RAGBRAI, where thousands of people pedal across this great state while camping, burning, drinking and partaking in activities that would even make our readers blush.

We like riding, too, and we love all the positive things RAGBRAI does for the biking community and our state. But should a bicycle ride be front-page news every day of the week? Two photos and promotional teasers for the ride consumed nearly one-third of the Register's front page on Monday alone, not to mention the full page inside and the countless photos, blogs and videos online. Columnists Kyle Munson and Michael Morain are even assigned to write about RAGBRAI. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the pressing news from Monday was that the ride had a "cool beginning to a hot day."

Hot? In Iowa? In July? No shit?

This type of self-serving "news" has published for the past few years in the pages of the Register, and we continue to be critical of this choice. If they want to publish promos of a bicycle ride in the lifestyle section, or as cover stories of entertainment publications like Juice or Datebook, so be it. Hell, throw it in Momslikeme. But making their own entertainment event front-page news in the main section for days on end is journalistically wrong, especially when so many other important issues deserve coverage — like Cityview's upcoming Martini Fest, for example.

OK, we admittedly pimp our own events, too, but as an alternative newsweekly we don't claim to provide "The News Iowa Depends Upon," which we noticed has been quietly updated on the Register's masthead from what previously said "The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon."

And maybe that's the reason. The newspaper simply doesn't matter to Gannett, and it is now nothing more than a promotional tool for the website and events. That's unfortunate for what is left of Register subscribers who truly care about news and not so much about bicycle rides. But those who can't get enough about RAGBRAI can still fork out 75 cents for all the "news" they depend upon. CV