Senior Column | The civic duty of research

In my experiences writing for The Daily Iowan, I learned how important it is to be informed on public matters.


Contributed photo by Chris Klepach

Chris Klepach, Opinions Columnist

Before my time began at The Daily Iowan, I was rarely in tune with the local news cycle. With this came regret for not knowing what my government was up to. In my time spent at the DI, I truly began to understand the civic duty of researching our legislature.

I joined the DI in the middle of my first year at the University of Iowa. I was a junior transfer from Kirkwood Community College. When I saw an available position at the DI, I took it as an opportunity to expand my writing skills. I admittedly had a rough start getting used to the weekly deadlines and pitching ideas.

In my experience at the DI, I began to pursue topics that resonated with me, not for the sake of writing about them, but to fulfill ideas that may not have been covered prior to my entry. I wanted to share a perspective that was rarely appreciated: religious, grounded, and appreciative of overlooked aspects of our community.

A particular article I had the pleasure of writing focused on the example set by the Prairie Hill cohousing community. No one around me at Hillcrest Residence Hall had even heard about it despite the housing existing within walking distance. Shining light on these parts of the community that others may not have heard of was a privilege.

Through my writing efforts, I went down multiple rabbit holes in national and Iowa law. This ranged from learning about the complicated relationship between the state and federal governments on various laws to the broad semantics written down into different legislations proposed. The research I have done on different legislative documents shouldn’t be taken solely for the research itself, though.

If we are to continue as a country, everyone who can vote should be given access to information about not only our politicians and their motives, but also laws they propose, what the laws actually say, and the people who are involved in the creation or lobbying process of these laws.

You would be surprised at how many instances a bill is signed that doesn’t tackle the core issue that caused it to gain traction in the first place. This can be seen through simply reading over laws on official legislature websites and pouring over articles that view issues in their own lights.

The time spent is worth it to know what we as a people will see enacted in our government.

Learning how the flow of a bill works from a reporting perspective — even if it wasn’t as live as the news section — was a challenge that I got better at surmounting over my year-and-a-half-long tenure at the DI. There is a feeling of interconnectedness there when you can track down the progress of a bill and consider how fellow Iowans feel alongside you.

With the busyness of life, it can be easy to let these opportunities for connectivity slide by. But when you stop and take an hour or two every week to let the facts flow, let the laws lead, and let people propose with the untapped potential of the screens and keyboards in front of us every day, you can experience and participate as an active member of society rather than as a passive one.

Thank you, DI, for teaching me this subliminally.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.