Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is RAGBRAI news?

State 29 doesn't like Register columnist Andie Dominick so they wrote this post complaining about her column from today.

If you're not going to follow the links, I'll give you the short version. David Yepsen apparently thinks it's a waste of time and resources for the Register to send columnists (including Dominick) along on RAGBRAI. He thinks there's more important things to cover than people biking between towns.

The thing is, he's right.

Make no mistake, RAGBRAI is cool. I know people who do it every year and they love it. They cite the people, the exercise, the food, the culture. But it's not news. Last year Erin Crawford wrote a piece on people playing chicken shit bingo. Does anyone really think this belongs in a newspaper?

Furthermore, does anyone really think the Register would go all-out to cover this if it was anything but the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa? I don't see Kay Henderson on a bike. Or Todd Dorman. They'll be out covering news. Register columnists will just get paid for a week of promoting their own event.

So mark it on the calendar: today, July 22, 2006, David Yepsen was right.



Chris Woods said...

I posted my idea for the Register and RAGBRAI over at my site...let me know what you think.

Martin Knight said...

I thought David was a bit out of line with his comments that it'd be pointless to send an editorial writer out on Ragbrai. Yeah, Ragbrai is a self-indulgent weeklong pat on the back. They probably do put too much emphasis on that, but it also attracts a lot of interest, both in and out of the state.

The newspaper covers the community. It's responsible to its community, which in this case is the state of Iowa. That means going out and *gasp* talking to people that don't live in Iowa City, Des Moines, Ames or other major population areas. I know it's *really* hard for someone like Kyle to understand this, because Des Moines is all encompassing, but that 'chicken-shit bingo' matters to people. It's part of their community and their identity. Kyle saying things like that is just a slap in the face of small towns everywhere.

If folks think that 'news' is anything coming out of the statehouse or the local politickin' office, then they're ignoring two-thirds of the newspaper -- any newspaper. Ragbrai helps many people re-connect with the Register and get their otherwise ignored by 'big media.' It's a lot like NPR's Story Corps -- everyone has a story to tell if you just take the time to listen.

I take it no one here remembers the Offenberger columns that used to be in the Register, or have bothered to read the Ramblin' articles in the Gazette.

That being said, these people are editorial writers. They're a lot like you bloggers, who over-estimate their importance. Andie Dominick taking a break from Medicare articles isn't the same as sending Tom Beaumont out on Ragbrai to writer features. She goes out, researches an article and gives you her opinion, which you accept or reject, depending on your political pursuasions. Wow. Groundbreaking. David's just acting like the snobby, arogant columnist he's known for.

KL Snow said...

Ok, I'm going to have to go point by point on you here:

1) Yepsen didn't say it'd be pointless, he replied that it was a waste of resources. To me, that implies that he acknowledges SOME gain from sending writers on RAGBRAI, just not as much gain as could be had by keeping them in the office to write about issues.

2) Before you try to paint me as the city boy slandering all the poor small towners out there, you should know this: I grew up in two small towns. I've lived the small town lifestyle, and I know what it's like. I think you thought I was exaggerating when I called the game in Crawford's piece "chicken shit bingo." Here's how the game works. You draw a series of boxes in the bottom of a chicken coop. Then you set a chicken in there, and wherever it shits, we have a winner. I've never heard that called anything but chicken shit bingo.

If what I said about it is a slap in the face to small towns, then your decision to say that chicken shit bingo is "part of their community and their identity." is a bigger one.

3) There's a reason some people feel neglected by "big media." It's because not everyone makes news. Maybe everyone has a story to tell, but that doesn't make everyone's story news.

As I mentioned before, I'm not a big-city liberal. I'm from a small town. I know what it's like to live in a place even your own elected officials don't know about. RAGBRAI is great at making places like that in Iowa the center of attention for a day or two. But it's still not news.

noneed4thneed said...

Ragbrai isn't news, but the people who ride it are.