Commentary

Iowa GOP blacklists TV station from election night event

November 16, 2022 8:00 am

Iowa Republican Party this week denied a Cedar Rapids TV station entrance into the GOP’s election night party in downtown Des Moines. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch via Canva)

Iowa Writers 'Collaborative. Linking Iowa readers and writers.In what’s become a trend of Republicans stiff-arming mainstream media outlets, the Iowa Republican Party last week denied a Cedar Rapids TV station entrance into the GOP’s election night party in downtown Des Moines.

KCRG-TV is the ABC affiliate in Cedar Rapids.  It’s a fine news operation that provides quality coverage in eastern Iowa.  On the day before the Nov. 8 election, the station learned it had been denied credentials to the Republican Party of Iowa’s election night event where all major GOP candidates would appear on camera.

According to a story on KCRG’s website, a Republican Party of Iowa spokesman claimed the room was at capacity and that priority was being given to Des Moines media outlets. KCRG news director Adam Carros said other media outlets from outside Des Moines were granted access, and he cried foul. “This is an unprecedented action in my 20+ years in TV news, 17 of it in Iowa,” Carros said.  “I cannot recall a single instance a political party has blocked a local TV or newspaper outlet from its election night event in Iowa.”

That makes two of us. In 40 years of TV news experience in Iowa, I’ve never heard of this happening, either. I imagine it won’t be the last time.

Carros suspects it’s payback for Fact Check coverage the station did on political ads run by several Republican candidates.  One of the stories criticized an ad from state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann,  the son of state GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann. Carros says the party repeatedly criticized KCRG’s coverage and refused to take part in the station’s previews of legislative races. “I have every reason to believe this is political retribution for our fact checks and other reporting the party deemed unfavorable.”

What possible gains can be made by denying a station the right to cover what turned into a huge victory party for the Iowa GOP? Although Republicans nationally didn’t experience the red wave they hoped for, in Iowa it was a red tsunami. Republicans now hold all Iowa seats in Congress, both houses of the Iowa Legislature, and they swept to victory in nearly every statewide office including governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state and ag secretary. Only one statewide office, that of auditor, is too close to call.

From Republicans’ perspective, what a great story to tell!  Why not shout it as loud as possible through every media outlet imaginable?

Somebody in the party sees it as a good thing to kick out mainstream media outlets. It started with Donald Trump’s campaign prior to the 2016 Iowa caucuses denying the Des Moines Register media credentials to his rallies because he was miffed at an editorial.

I wrote last month about how Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds did not respond when the Register offered the opportunity to write her own answers to a questionnaire.

Before her opponent was projected the winner of the Arizona governor’s race, Republican candidate Kari Lake – a former TV news anchor, for Pete’s sake – told reporters she planned to win, and not only serve four years, but eight. With reporters standing around her, Lake said “I’m gonna be your worst freaking nightmare for eight years, and we will reform the media as well. We’re gonna make you guys into journalists again. So get ready. It’s going to be a fun eight years. I can’t wait.”

Let’s get something straight. Reporters are supposed to do tough stories on people in power.  Threats from Kari Lake, or stiff arming from Iowa Republicans, is not going to change that fact. After Nov. 8, EVERYONE in power in Iowa is a Republican. It’s clear they want to intimidate and bully media outlets into becoming lap dogs. To write glowing stories only. But it is not going to happen, and they know that. Their main goal is to score political points with their base. The media are an easy target.

Local TV news stations cannot turn into partisan outlets like Fox or MSNBC. They must continue to hit the ball down the middle of the fairway and do tough stories on those in power, regardless of party, regardless of complaints, and regardless of blacklisting.

In the end, KCRG grabbed a Des Moines station’s satellite feed of the Iowa Republican victory celebration, so viewers did not miss out. And in the next election cycle, Adam Carros and his team will continue to do Fact Checks on both Republican and Democratic candidates – with or without their cooperation.

This column was first published by “Dave Busiek on Media” and is reprinted here through the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative.

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Dave Busiek
Dave Busiek

Dave Busiek spent 43 years working in Iowa radio and television newsrooms as a reporter, anchor and the last 30 years as news director of KCCI-TV, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines. In that role, he planned coverage of the Iowa caucuses, the floods of 1993 during which 250,000 central Iowans lost drinking water for 12 days, and organized the first national debate between Democratic candidates for president in 2015. He served as national board chair of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. In 2014, he was Broadcasting and Cable Magazine’s News Director of the Year. He was inducted into the Iowa Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2018 and is a recipient of the Iowa Broadcast News Association’s Jack Shelley award. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He retired at the end of 2018. He is a member of the Iowa Writers' Collaborative and his blog, "Dave Busiek on Media" appears on Substack.

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