Opinion

New Iowa press group advocates for accessible government

Iowa Capitol Press Association offers unified voice

The ornamental decorations of the Iowa Capitol dome are seen from outside Dec. 19, 2019, in Des Moines. (Andy Abeyta/The
The ornamental decorations of the Iowa Capitol dome are seen from outside Dec. 19, 2019, in Des Moines. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Journalists who cover the Iowa Capitol come from a variety of media outlets based not just in Des Moines but across the state.

While their cause is the same — robust news coverage of state government — their work is independent and often competitive.

There are times, however, when those statehouse journalists may face a similar obstacle to their work. Or an issue may arise for which those journalists may wish to speak with a unified voice, rather than individually.

That, in a nutshell, was the genesis of the Iowa Capitol Press Association.

The ICPA is a collection of statehouse journalists who, to borrow from the newly minted group’s mission statement, will “promote and support robust coverage of Iowa state government for the benefit of the public, and to advocate for policies that encourage transparency, access, and for conditions in which press corps members can conduct their work safely and effectively.”

It’s not a new idea. More than a dozen other states have similar statehouse press groups, and of course the nation’s capital has the White House Correspondents Association.

The idea here is similar: A group of journalists who cover the capital form a group that can speak with one voice on issues relevant to their jobs, all with the goal of better serving their readers, listeners and viewers: the people of Iowa.

As someone who was heavily involved in the formation of the Iowa Capitol Press Association, I can tell you there was no big-bang moment that propelled its creation. It’s something some among the statehouse press corps have toyed with for a few years. It may actually have been the pandemic that allowed the group to gather enough steam this year. It seems easier to get people to jump on a video conference call from their home computer than it is to get them to travel to a common site for a meeting.

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After months of group meetings to lay the foundation, the organization formally announced itself Nov. 30. Just before that formal announcement, the group elected its first officers. This reporter was humbled and honored to be elected president. Kathie Obradovich of the Iowa Capital Dispatch was elected vice president and Katarina Sostaric of Iowa Public Radio was elected secretary.

Those officers have already started meeting with state government leaders, including the governor’s staff and legislative leaders. A priority right now is preparing for the 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature, especially given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But in the coming weeks, months and years, the ICPA will continue to advocate for a state government that is accessible to journalists who serve the public, and transparent in its dealings.

This is not a self-serving mission. The group undertakes this mission not to benefit the journalists but instead so our work can be done in a way that best serves the people of Iowa.

If you feel so inclined, you can follow the Iowa Capitol Press Association online at iowacapitolpress.com and on Twitter at @iacapitolpress, and email the group at iowacapitolpress@gmail.com.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His column appears Mondays in The Gazette. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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