116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
After a five-year run, this is the final installment of the "At Liberty" column in The Gazette.
This past week was my last at The Gazette, where I've been writing on the opinion page regularly since 2017, first as a weekly contributor and then as a full-time columnist and editorial board member.
And I have loved working here. This 139-year-old institution is far from perfect, but it's a good paper and home to some of the best journalists in the Midwest. It's one in a shrinking class of locally managed newsrooms in an era of conglomeration nationally. I'll keep subscribing even without the employee discount.
I grew up in Iowa City reading The Gazette. The first time my name appeared in these pages was in 2003, when I helped an eight-grade classmate organize a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. We reportedly raised $258 to send supplies to kids in Iraq during the U.S. invasion. I wish I could take some credit, but really it was for a class assignment on community service.
I interned here for a semester in college in 2011, back when it was called SourceMedia Group and KCRG was still part of the company. I worked the afternoon and evening shift in the TV newsroom, chasing down scanner reports of fires and car crashes.
I changed paths a few times in my early career but jumped at the chance in 2017 to get back in the newspaper business when former opinion editor Jennifer Hemmingsen offered me a spot as a part-time columnist. I came on full time later that year with Todd Dorman at the helm of the section.
I owe a lot to Hemmingsen for bringing me on and Dorman for keeping me, and especially for the freedom they gave me as my editors. I was at liberty to explore some radical ideas — more pro-gun and anti-regulation than most Republicans but also more pro-immigration and anti-prohibition than most Democrats.
Some readers felt betrayed by those idiosyncrasies. I occasionally heard "you're better than this" from people who agreed with me on one topic and not another. I promise you I am not better than that. Worse, probably.
I don't know how many folks I persuaded, but I know I challenged a few to think differently. I'm grateful for all the thoughtful readers who got in touch to share their views. I'm also grateful for the haters and losers who contacted me to spout nonsense. It's flattering to know people are thinking about you, no matter what they think.
My most popular columns often have been the ones that made people mad, the ones that triggered the libs or the cons. Or maybe they were popular because they made people who agreed with me feel self-righteous about being mad at the targets of my scorn. It's weird to tell people your opinions for a living.
I'm not moving anywhere. I'll still be living in Eastern Iowa and working remotely for a nonprofit focused nationally on the same values I have been espousing here — free minds and free markets.
And maybe someday you'll see my name in this newspaper again — hopefully not in the crime reports.