Iowa Editor Upbeat in Talk to Investigative Reporters

Article excerpt

The editor of the Des Moines Register told a thousand investigative journalists here Friday that despite messages of gloom and doom from many, the newspaper business has much to smile about.

The editor, Geneva Overholser, spoke at the Riverfront Regal Hotel to the annual convention of Investigative Reporters and Editors. The session began Thursday and ends Sunday. Overholser stopped short of 100 percent Pollyanna. "We worry about declining readership, and we should worry," she said.

But she reminded the crowd how newspapers of earlier decades had reacted, or failed to react. In the immediate post-Watergate era, she said, "when newspapers were dying left and right, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves - prideful and arrogant." Next came a panicky period of homogenization, she said. "Recently, we've gotten smarter."

She told the crowd that for every downbeat complaint about the business, she found a silver side.

She cited old-time reporters who complain of "finger-to-the-wind journalism" - of pandering to readers. In fact, she said, "What readers want is good stuff - compelling stories. We can ill afford to disparage them."

She said that grumbling about politically correct newsrooms was all too often justified. But she cautioned against an overreaction that would endanger newsroom diversity.

"Up with a richly representative news staff," she said, "and down with rigid orthodoxy."

The group's president, reporter Deborah Nelson of the Chicago Sun-Times, said in a crowded, noisy hallway interview that her group was growing again after stagnating in the 1980s. …