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The Gazette Finds The Bright Side of the Bruegger's Fire

So, I have been known to tweak the Daily Iowan on the Little Village Magazine in the past. So far I’ve not gone after the Press Citizen, because whatever the shortcomings of that newspaper, they’re usually not that funny. The Little Village folks have friends both places, and really, is it a good idea to trash other local media outlets? The PC even did a nice article about Little Village on the occasion of our 10th anniversary.

But the Cedar Rapids Gazette — excuse me THE GAZETTE, somehow in the past few years they’ve come unstuck from their erstwhile geography — I don’t know anyone there, and I’ve been carefully tending my dislike for the paper for 41 years. And now they’ve really gone and done it:

Iowa City fire could create opportunities

EDIT: They’ve changed the headline for the on-line post to the less offensive “How will fire change downtown Iowa City?” The headline above was there unitil sometime this morning.

This is an article that is almost entirely free of concrete facts to support the headline. The reporter, Gregg Hennigan, did due diligence in getting quotes from a few people, but they were all variations on “I don’t know, this just happened, nothing’s been settled.”

What is astounding is the callous disregard of the businesses that have been damaged, the tenants burned out of their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The poor people at AKAR had most of their fall inventory damaged or destroyed.

Hennigan opines “It’s no secret, however, that city and downtown representatives want to see changes downtown, specifically the addition of more retailers, office space and owner-occupied housing.” Yes, and I’m sure those people want to accomplish that by burning down inconvenient old buildings, like 9 South Linn Street, the Van Patten House, which is on the national historic register. The Bruegger’s building was actually the first place in Iowa City I ever lived — on the ground floor, prior to its conversion to a restaurant — so I take this personally.

I don’t presume to judge Hennigan as a person or a journalist, but the tone and focus of that article — and particularly the headline, which Hennigan probably did not write — is so tone-deaf and insensitive that someone at the Gazette should be ashamed.

Picture taken from Josh Carrolhach's Facebook Stream

Comments



4 thoughts on “The Gazette Finds The Bright Side of the Bruegger's Fire

  1. Lyle Muller, Gazette Editor September 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Your criticism lacks a basic fact, colored by your professed bias about The Gazette. The Gazette newspaper headline today is “How will downtown fire change I.C.?” not the one you pulled from the web site, for which The Gazette, of course, is responsible and which was changed. Regarding Gregg Hennigan's story, noting the city's redevelopment desires for downtown is a viable part of the follow-up story that explores what will happen in the fire's aftermath and does not diminish the loss that was sustained and which was reported on in the Sunday, Sept. 25, Gazette. http://thegazette.com/2011/09/

  2. The Gazette is actually my favorite Iowa paper. I understand Kent's sentiment, but I don't find the article in bad taste. That said, It is rather hollow, isn't it? Is Hennigan really noting the city's redevelopment desires? It feels like this story arc was ripped off the news peg but nothing really panned out for it, to be blunt. To be even more blunt, the print article's headline is the exact question I found myself asking after finishing the piece.  

  3. Mr. Muller,

    So apparently, my point about the headline was apt.

    As for my dislike for The Gazette, we moved to Cedar Rapids in 1970, when I was 12 years old, and I'd been reading the San Francisco Chronical since I was a wee sprat.  The Gazette of those days was a staunchly right wing paper that was firmly in bed with the local Powers That Be. It was also before the Des Moines Register was sold to Gannet and was a world class newspaper, with the Pulitzers to go with it.

    Since then I'll admit the Gazette has gotten better, and conversely the Des Moines Register has gotten worse.  My dislike of the paper has eased a bit consequently, but that article, and that headline especially, felt like a real slap at Iowa City.

    Even without the headline, it strikes me as an odd thing to be publishing so soon after the fire, especially when no one seemed to have anything definite to say. It isn't clear what will become of the damaged properties. There aren't even any definite plans for changing the downtown, in general.  My personal slant on the subject is that Iowa City's downtown IS thriving as it stands, and I'm suspicious of any plans that would change the character of the place.

    A big part of that character comes from the well-preserved 18th Century red brick buildings of which the Bruegger's building and 9 South Linn were great examples.  To my way of thinking it would be better to restore the damaged buildings than to build more yuppie condos and bring national retailers to the store fronts, and that's the direction the City and downtown merchants and landlords seem to want to go.

    So I'm sorry if you felt I was treating the Gazette too harshly.  My reaction was as much emotional as it was intellectual, but I stand by the salient points in my post.  Certainly the Gazette is big enough to withstand any sniping from the likes of me.

  4. I'm just interested, one person in the word business to another, in what the heck “viable” means in the last sentence here. The point at issue isn't whether the story or its parts are viable: of course they are. You published them.
    The point is whether the story had anything new to say. I read it. I think Mr. Williams's criticisms are valid (is that the word you wanted?). And the original title of the article was, as you tacitly admit, offensive.

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