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Guest Commentary

Foolishness, jokes on us not limited to April 1

4/3/2013

No need to be troubled if you were confused by Cityview’s April Fool’s edition — the one with the cover story about Des Moines police using android “robo-cops” for traffic tickets and such things. Even without April Fool!, day in and day out it’s more difficult to distinguish the jokes from the news. Too often they’re one in the same (like U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley saying both Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are qualified to be President).

Consider:

• Gov. Terry Branstad nominated Robert Cramer for the Iowa Board of Regents. Cramer’s credentials include the fact he campaigned for the removal of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” from the Johnston High School curriculum and library and presumably from student backpacks as well. When on the Johnston school board, he complained about “liberal” members and urged voters to elect folks more partial to his way of thinking. “Just the sort I want on the non-partisan board of regents,” Branstad may as well have said. Going along with the joke, a Des Moines Register editorial said the Iowa Senate should approve the Cramer nomination.

• Iowa “Public” Radio wants to forget about its “public” nature and operate in secret anytime it wants, contrary to the Iowa open meetings law, which the board had followed for years. IPR board chair Kay Runge may as well have said “The ‘public’ be damned.” While Cityview’s Civic Skinny has covered the issue well and the Cedar Rapids Gazette had an editorial against IPR secrecy, Des Moines media ignored the issue as sort of their own April Fool!

• A headline about still another 10-year contract for a coach said it “Ends speculation” that basketball coach Fred Hoiberg would ever leave Iowa State. In celebrating this latest chapter in inflated coaches’ salaries, most sportswriters and broadcasters again failed to report that, under the typical one-way contract, coaches can leave any time they want and that the sports world will always speculate about a coach’s next job.

• The Christian right of the Iowa GOP blasted an anti-bullying conference for “promoting evil” because of suggestions that fellow students should not torment or beat up gay classmates. Right on top of the issue, a Register op-ed piece blasted a Washington Post writer who “wrongly portrays GOP here as right-wing radicals.”

• The NCAA wrestling championships supposedly brought 90,000 people to town (at least according to a couple of WHO-TV mentions although the Register once opted for “scores”). The grapplers also generated $15 million or more in revenue for Des Moines (according to just about everyone). Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated magazine all but ignored the NCAA wrestling championships. A one-sentence reference in SI’s April 1 issue didn’t even mention Des Moines.

• As for the NCAA’s incessant preaching about “Student Athletes,” Leigh Montville of Sports on Earth distinguished the women’s NCAA basketball tourney from the men’s by pointing out, “These women are actual college students.” Who knew?

Day in and day out, news coverage and commentary on the world around us makes you wonder if that April Fool’s story about Des Moines robo-cops really is far-fetched. Makes at least as much sense as Iowa’s robo-right. CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

Jokers