Guest Columnist

Derecho aftermath demands more national media attention

Sen. Joni Ernst picks up a package of food for a family at the HACAP Mobile Food Pantry at Veteran's Memorial Stadium in
Sen. Joni Ernst picks up a package of food for a family at the HACAP Mobile Food Pantry at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Derecho. A word you probably haven’t heard often, and frankly haven’t seen enough coverage of.

In Iowa, lives have been lost, farms upended, and communities ravaged at the hands of a derecho.

Cedar Rapids, our state’s second largest city, is demolished. Communities and rural areas across Iowa have been devastated. Folks are without power, and have been for seven days.

I was on the ground with the National Guard in 2008 responding to the devastating floods, and folks, what I’m seeing now — it’s worse. I think back to the media coverage those floods got, and I’d say it was pretty substantial nationwide.

Last week, we got hit by the equivalent of a Category 2 inland hurricane and there’s nothing on the front page of any national news outlets.

The national media is paying little attention to the devastation we’re facing here in Iowa. They’ve turned a blind eye to what they see as “flyover country.”

I’ve heard the frustration of my fellow Iowans about the lack of attention we’re getting from the national media. And they’re right. National reporters should spend more time covering the damage done and the rebuilding taking place across our state.

It’s unacceptable.

But while the national media might fail to do its job, Iowa’s local news reporters and journalists have been working around the clock to cover this derecho. They’ve told the heart wrenching stories of loss, and they’ve depicted the widespread damage. Iowa has some of the best and brightest talent around — I’ve seen it time and again, not just during this storm, but when I’m on my 99 County Tour and talking with local media. They work hard to report the facts and cover what’s going on in our cities and rural towns across Iowa.

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And just like our local news outlets, I’m on the ground. I’m listening to Iowans, seeing the destruction firsthand, and working with all levels of government to provide quick relief and support to folks. The governor and her team worked hard to quickly assess the damage and submit a request for a presidential major disaster declaration, something I fully supported and urged the president and his administration to quickly approve. Iowans are in need and these additional federal resources will help significantly.

But right now — there is devastation to depict and stories to share. I don’t care the network or the reporter, but the national media needs to do their job and educate the American people on what Iowans have faced and are facing.

Iowans are tough. We’re fighters, we’ll get through this, and I’ll be helping every step of the way.

Joni Ernst is a Republican representing Iowa in the U.S. Senate.

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