By Joe Sheller / Media Column
This column has lasted just a little more than a presidential term. But after a few months more than four years, my media musings in the Corridor Business Journal are drawing to an end. This is my final essay here.
It has been a fun ride. As a journalism professor at Mount Mercy University, I teach several classes that cover the impact of media in America, including a course in media history. One advantage of writing this column has been the chance to explore that history on a more micro level — noting trends and changes in media in the Corridor that are tied to or reflect larger trends.
The past four years have seen important changes in local media. In that time, KCRG was sold by The Gazette and is now part of Gray Television. Cedar Rapids has changed mayors, Iowa has changed governors and the United States has changed presidents — all of which had some impact on the media scene.
In my columns, I’ve written about media events both serious and amusing. Some of my favorites have dealt with transitions; the one I wrote earlier this year about Donald Kaul, a former Register columnist and co-founder of RAGBRAI who died in 2018, is one example. Another was in February 2016 when I wrote about the retirement of longtime Gazette city hall reporter Rick Smith.
Sometimes, I have written about interesting shifts in the media business. In March 2015, there was an ongoing dispute between DIRECTV and KCRG. I wrote a column about it, noting how complicated the TV business was growing, and managed to work the pun “50 shades of pay” into the headline. I also had the chance to quote a science fiction writer, which gave my nerdy soul some pleasure.
Media in the Corridor continue to grapple with new realities. Long-term shifts in advertising is one factor, as is the change in audience habits, with social media becoming an ever more important source of information and disinformation.
In this era of change, I’ve tried to provide, in my own limited way, some insight and entertainment. I hope you have enjoyed my attempts.
This month, I had been toying with the idea of writing about who are the “guardians” in the Corridor. Time magazine poignantly pointed out the sacrifice that sometimes comes with practicing journalism in naming “guardians” who paid a heavy price in 2018 as their Persons of the Year. Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October. The staff of the Capital Gazette, where several journalists were shot, was also honored.
Thankfully in the Corridor, we haven’t had any journalists killed for practicing their craft. Here, hardworking journalists continue to be local guardians of the facts. To single out one, Dave DeWitte of the CBJ has decades of business journalism experience, and is a writer worth paying attention to. I also think IowaWatch, a nonprofit public affairs journalism organization in Iowa City directed by Lyle Muller, former editor of The Gazette, is an important source for investigative reporting locally.
And there are lots of other hard-working journalists at local newspapers, TV stations and in radio throughout our region. While this is a challenging time to be in media, it’s also true that we in the Corridor are blessed by many media creators who continue their good work.
In the time I have written this column, I’ve also appreciated the editing that my words have received from Adam Moore of the Corridor Business Journal. He has a knack for sharpening my prose while still respecting my voice.
Finally, and most of all, thank you, readers. Over these few years, several of you have contacted me with comments on items that I’ve written here, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing from you.
You can continue to read my thoughts, if you like. I maintain several blogs. One, available at http://iowamedialife.blogspot.com/, is about media, although not as focused on local content as these columns have been. I also write about my adventures as a Cedar Rapids bicycle commuter at http://crbiker.blogspot.com/. And I write general life musings — including coverage of my life as a university professor — at https://crgardenjoe.wordpress.com/.
Joe Sheller is an associate professor of communication and journalism at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.