Friday, August 19, 2005

Burlington Hawk Eye Sports Editor Bohnenkamp Defends State's Newspapers

There's some thoughtful follow-up e-mail today from readers to the message sent to me a few days ago by Barry Crist of West Des Moines.

Crist, you may recall, called Des Moines Register sports columnist Nancy Clark "gallactically stupid" while making the point that Internet sites are doing a much better job than newspapers of covering football news at Iowa and Iowa State.

Coming to the defense of newspapers in one e-mail is John Bohnenkamp, sports editor of the Burlington Hawk Eye. He says "there's good journalism going on in this state at a lot of newspapers."

Transplanted Iowan Mark Robinson, now of Valencia, CA, says Clark "once again is confused" in what she wrote about bloggers and the Internet.

Both e-mails make for good reading as the collegiate football season quickly approaches:


"A few things, since I probably won't see you at a game for a while:

"I enjoy reading your Web site. You've been around the sports in this state a lot longer than I have, and I think you have some dead-on takes about a lot of things.

"That said, I cringe a little bit when there's a lot of newspaper bashing on your site, mostly from people you know and mostly from people who are angry at the paper you used to work for.

"That's fine, I understand that. Where I'm concerned is that a lot of people these days take shots at the newspaper business because the Internet is the next big thing.

"I think the Internet sites that cover Iowa and Iowa State do a great job. What concerns me are the message boards, and I have written about those in the past. A lot of stuff gets thrown out that isn't true, a lot of opinions expressed that have no logic or facts.

"Frankly, there's good journalism going on in this state at a lot of newspapers, and I think sometimes people overlook that because what we do doesn't fit their idea of what we should be doing.

"It's easy to praise Internet sites, they have a lot to work with, they have an immediate impact, they serve their purpose. If people want to get their news from there, great.

"But the newspapers should serve a purpose too, and I think too many people are overlooking that. I think we do good work, I think the [Cedar Rapids] Gazette and Quad-City Times do as well. Waterloo has a great section with good people working there, the Press-Citizen has good writing and reporting. The Dubuque Telegraph Herald wins awards all of the time, and they have a good staff. And I think there's good writing at the Register. I enjoy working with all of the people from those papers.

"Someone complained to you in an e-mail about the 'pups' working at the Register. I don't work there, but does the fact that I'm not older than 40 make me a less-than-adequate journalist? About a year ago I had an older man call and tell me I had no business being in my position because I wasn't old enough to do the job. I'm 39, been in the business 17 years, and I'm still not 'old enough?' Trust me, I was offended.

"You're right, we are still offering a 20th-century product. But I think in a lot of cases, it's still a product people can depend on. I wish more people would recognize that."

John Bohnenkamp
Sports Editor
The Hawk Eye
Burlington, IA

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Thanks for your thoughts, John. The Hawk Eye has been doing a good job of covering sports in this state for a long time, and is following in that tradition under Bohnenkamp's direction. Newspapers aren't going away, nor are some of the people who buy them. The problem is that fewer and fewer young people are reading papers these days, and a shocking number of them are turning to the Internet for their news. Unless newspaper owners and editors can find a way to change the way they deliver the news--such as putting more of it on the Internet themselves--the trend is expected to continue].


Here's Mark Robinson's e-mail about Nancy Clark, bloggers and the $2 newspaper [the price the Des Moines Register now charges for its Sunday product]:

"Hello Ron:

"Re: The Nancy Clark column mentioned in your most recent post.

"I did read the article the day it was published and, as I recall, she kept making references to 'bloggers,' and not those premium sites like Hawkeye Nation and Hawkeye Report.

"And once again, Nancy is confused. In her lone example [that I can recall], she mentioned the rumor of Drew Tate's broken leg prior to the recent bowl game. Nancy should know better; that rumor was not started by bloggers. In fact, I know of no dedicated Hawkeye weblog sites. No, that particular rumor, like most rumors in the Hawkeye cyberspace, first showed up on a Hawkeye fan message board.

"Apparently, Nancy doesn't know the difference between a blog, such as yours, Ron, and an open message board where casual fans swap stories and discuss their favorite sports teams, Food Network personalities, or rock musicians.

"As for the new 2-buck price tag on the Sunday paper; the last two times I bought a Sunday L.A. Times at the local supermarket, I paid a quarter. That would be...25 cents.

"Keep writing,"

Mark Robinson
Valencia, CA

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Obviously, there's plenty of confusion about what a blog is or isn't these days. Call it a blog, call it a column on the Internet, call it a chat line. Frankly, I don't care. It's a way of communicating, and that, after all, is what newspapers and the rest of us are trying to do. Now I hope there isn't a mass exit from the state of Iowa so people can start buying the Los Angeles Times for 25 cents on Sundays at the supermarket. I do wish somebody would tell the Gannett Co., though. That $2 price for the Sunday paper in Des Moines is too damn much. The $2 price is bad enough, but more shame should be placed on publisher Mary P. Stier and other bosses at the paper who tried to sneak the higher price past readers without announcing it].


Gordy Scoles of Bennettsville, S.C., a coach-turned-author, says some interesting things in this e-mail:


"I just watched on the Internet your interviews by the University of Iowa. They
are really interesting and go a long way toward explaining why the Register 'ain't what it used to be.' I guess we have been gone from the state long enough to not realize it's not a state newspaper any longer. When we were in Iowa this past June, staying with friends in Cedar Rapids, we commented how the Gazette was better than the Register. That wasn't true when we lived in Cedar Rapids from 1980-1983.

"Anyway, I enjoyed the interviews. We are in week two of high school football
down here [in South Carolina], and it's finally starting to cool off a little bit. Of course, next week we're supposed to get a ton of rain from the hurricane, butthat's what you get when you trade in your snow shovel."

Gordy Scoles
Bennettsville, S.C.

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: The University of Iowa interviews Scoles is referring to were part of the "Iowa Journalists Oral History Project." A number of us were interviewed separately in no-holds-barred fashion for a couple of hours in front of a video camera. I felt honored to be among those chosen for the project. Thanks very much for your comments on what I had to say, Gordy. And the folks at the Gazette will appreciate what you said about their newspaper. J. R. Ogden, Mike Hlas and the others in the Gazette sports department are turning out an excellent product in Cedar Rapids these days. The Gazette is where I began working as a teen-ager while attending old Wilson High School in Cedar Rapids. I stayed at the Gazette as a part-timer before graduating from the University of Iowa in 1958. The Gazette sports editor and columnist then was Gus Schrader, who was one of the best. Scoles is the author of "Best In The Land--The First Half-Century of Nashua High School Football," and is now in the final stages of publishing "Onward To Victory: The First Half-Century of Greene High School Football." Keep up the outstanding work, Gordy].


A woman identified as "Central Iowa Reader" sent this e-mail after I wrote in a column that former Iowa State basketball standout Fred Hoiberg should be the next Cyclone athletic director:

"Ron, what an outstanding idea. Hoiberg for the job!"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: As far as I'm concerned, Hoiberg is still the best name out there as Iowa State and the high-priced "headhunter" firm that will provide candidates to the school look for Bruce Van De Velde's successor. Hoiberg has been playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but I think his NBA career should be over because of the recent heart surgery he underwent. He shouldn't risk playing again, and I can't imagine any team wanting to try putting him in uniform].


A reader's e-mail includes mention of Hoiberg, the local paper, weblogs, Nancy Clark and irony:

"I don't know if you noticed it, but in [a recent] Des Moines Register sports/Hoiberg headline, a sidebar referred to 'weblogs' [your site?] that nominate The Mayor for ISU's athletic director.

"Isn't it a bit ironic that it appeared not one week from Nancy Clark's
anti-blogger diatribe?

"Keep up the great work!"

Twenty-Twenty Vision
Des Moines

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Great hearing from you again, Twenty-Twenty. As you can tell by all of this, my column has become required reading in lots of newsrooms. With this robust rise in readership, I'm about ready to ask The Boss for a pay raise. I may want to celebrate and take My Editor to lunch one of these days].


Travis Simpson, one of the millions of frustrated Chicago Cubs fans, sent this e-mail:

"On Nomar Garciaparra going to the DL again and Ronny Cedeno coming back up:

"Triple-A Iowa shortstop Ronny Cedeno is expected to replace Garciaparra in the long term, but [manager Dusty] Baker gave no indication that Cedeno would play much down the stretch, meaning he'll back up Neifi Perez again.

"It depends on where we are in this [wild-card] race," Baker said. "He's most likely the shortstop of the future. I've got a pretty good idea of what he can do, and I like the young man. But as of right now, it's hard to take Neifi out of there, the way he's playing. You've got to reward the guys that busted their butts for you. That's how it is."

"Cedeno is hitting .357 [at Iowa]. He hit .259 with the Cubs in two stints, while getting only 54 at-bats.

"I was at the I-Cubs game Saturday night and Cedeno made an outstanding defensive play that resulted in an improbable double play that he threw from shallow left-field to pick off the runner at 1B to end the inning and would have easily been a top Web Gem play on ESPN had it happened in the big leagues. The crowd gave him a roaring standing ovation for the great play. Every time I've seen him play at Iowa he always seems to have a great game in some aspect, which makes you wonder why management doesn't force Baker to play him to see what he can do considering whether to bring Nomar back is a big question.

"And I knew that impressive stretch against St. Louis and Houston would not carry over. They win a few meaningful games,then they usually lose a few to terrible teams. Baker is fooling no one right now thinking that this tendency will change the rest of the season.

"Cyclone football starts in 10 days, so I will finally get to watch a team that plays with a lot of heart for a change and put the Cubs on the back-burner."

Travis Simpson
Des Moines

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Be glad you've got the Cyclones to fall back on, Travis. Some people aren't that fortunate].

Vol. 4, No. 367
Aug. 26, 2005