Monday, February 13, 2017

News in the real world

Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Gazette “On Topic” column from Feb. 12, 2017
Dear Mr. Sorkin:
First, let me say I’m a big fan. I loved the writing in “Sports Night.” I often recite the “storm clouds are gathering” speech when talking to reporters here at The Gazette about getting to the point sooner in their stories.
And not that long ago I lifted a whole chunk from your baseball movie, “Moneyball,” when I was talking to a seasoned reporter about how he could help staffers coming up.
“West Wing” I liked, too. But 155 episodes over seven seasons? Forgive me, but I may never catch up.
But where are you now, Obi-Wan? You may be our only hope.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Seeing is believing

Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Gazette “On Topic” column from Aug. 14, 2016

Gov. Terry Branstad calls them haters — those who see a very different picture in the current state affairs of Iowa’s Medicaid managed-care situation.
“Democrats don’t like it, and the Des Moines Register hates it. We’re not going to be deterred by that,” he told the Westside Conservative Club in Des Moines late last month.
“These great so-called progressives are the ones that are the most against progress. They’re stuck in the past.”

Too quick for our own good?

Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Gazette “On Topic” column from March 13, 2016

Gov. Terry Branstad always and forever, it seems, has branded himself as pro-business.
Back in 2010 when he campaigned to retake Terrace Hill from then-Gov. Chet Culver, Branstad won the endorsement of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s political action committee. The organization at the time represented 1,400 businesses in the state.
When he got that nod from the PAC, Branstad vowed to be a “pro-business, pro-growth governor who will reduce taxes and not increase debt.” He resolved, in a Gazette story reported by James Q. Lynch at the time, to “make government more efficient and work day in and day out to encourage job creation.”
So you have to wonder what thought Gov. Branstad gave, with that pro-business mindset, to the many health care providers, large and small, when he set in motion his lickety-split rush to managed care.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Shifting views

Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Gazette weekly column, “On Topic,” from 07-03-16
I am going to resist the urge to say something potentially cheesy and cheap and manipulative by pointing out that tomorrow, the Fourth of July, is not only a day to commemorate freedom in this country but also a time to remember that a basic tenant of freedom is to speak out. To inform and, sometimes, to encourage consideration of other viewpoints — whether that be from a newspaper, such as this one, or from an individual.
But it is.
Of course, listening to other opinions doesn’t always result in a road-to-Damascus change of hearts and minds. Sometimes, though, it can layer our thinking — on a single argument or for a whole new outlook.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why millennials matter

Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Gazette weekly column, “On Topic,” from 05-24-15
I considered starting out like this:
How many millennials does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Who knows — none of them stick around long enough to finish the job … .
But lately, after spending most of my working day with those frequently maligned millennials, I’ve concluded it’s probably past time for managers to rethink the validity of that view.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Difficult calls

Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Gazette weekly column, “On Topic,” from 08-31-14
Thirteen years ago, we worked our way through the same contentious debate in newsrooms of newspapers, magazines, TV stations and websites across this business of journalism.
On Sept. 11, 2001, and on the days that followed — even though we, too, wanted to share our outrage and declare sides, we wanted to hunt down every scrap of information, we wanted to debate the bigger picture of global consequences — news editors, art directors and photo chiefs talked about how to best present what we were learning.
We argued a lot about one photo in particular. You’ll remember it: a man plummeting from the World Trade Center’s north tower.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Opinion: ‘Gatsby? What Gatsby?’

Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Gazette weekly column, “On Topic,” from 05-26-13
As we were coming out of a showing of the Baz Luhrmann-directed movie “The Great Gatsby” — the latest in a line of movie versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel — we passed a clutch of older-than-middle-aged women, and one of them sighed to her friend, “I was hoping for a happy ending.”
Really? Did you not read the book in high school? You didn’t see that tragic conclusion coming a mile off?
But it occurred to me that maybe she was disappointed by this latest cinematic “Gatsby” — just as a number of movie critics, too, have been, well, critical — because they’re missing the point.