The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Witching Hour: Director of Iowa Newspaper Association highlights media trends in Iowa

Longtime journalist presents how local newspapers are rising from the grave
The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Sm
People gather in the Iowa City Public Library in October, 2017. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Whenever Susan Patterson Plank, the executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association, is asked what she does for a living, she often responds with “saving democracy.”

As part of Witching Hour Festival this past weekend, Plank gave a presentation, titled “Local Media: Rising from the Dead,” focusing on recent trends for small-town newspapers in Iowa at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

Fitting in with the festival’s theme of exploring the unknown and discussing the creative process, Plank examined readership data and debunked common myths about the newspaper industry. She presented notable accomplishments Iowa has achieved in the field of journalism.

In total, there are 277 newspapers in Iowa, more newspapers per capita than any other state. Each town receives at least two different newspapers, with 2.4 million readers in the state.

As a testimony to Iowa’s strong background in journalism, Plank shared the story of Art Cullen, a journalist located in Storm Lake who took home a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of corporate agriculture in Iowa. Cullen was the 17th Iowan to receive the honor.

Among her findings, Plank uncovered the rates of readerships for among age groups. Despite the popular misconception of millennials never reading the newspaper, the data showed that 72.4 percent of residents ages 18 to 24 read newspapers.

“Newspapers build community, continuity, credibility, and consensus.” Park said during her presentation. “Many of them are locally owned, and even if they’re not, they have passion.”

Emery Styron, who attended to presentation, worked as reporter until he retired in 1996. After being in the business for 40 years, he said, nothing in the presentation particularly shocked him.

“I knew it was still strong, so it was reassuring to me,” Styron said.

The data also pique the interest with those not involved inside the newsroom.

UI engineering visiting instructor Aleksey Gurtovoy, a co-founder of Textpress, regularly intersects media and technology for his business.

“I’m very interested in the helpful media, in Iowa City particularly,” he said. “Even though there are three or four large publications in Iowa, there’s definitely room to improve in terms of the quality of coverage depth and investigative journalism.”

Ultimately, Parks wants to show the public how the newspaper industry is still healthy in Iowa.

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About the Contributor
Sarah Stortz
Sarah Stortz, Arts Editor
Twitter: @sstortz_
Sarah Stortz is an Arts Editor at The Daily Iowan. She has been on staff since her freshman year, previously as a news reporter, digital producer, and arts reporter. She is a senior at the University of Iowa, studying journalism & mass communication with a certificate in nonprofit management and a minor in theatre arts.