Academic journal article Journalism History

Covering Iowa: The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, 1849-1985

Academic journal article Journalism History

Covering Iowa: The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, 1849-1985

Article excerpt

Friedricks, William B. Covering Iowa: The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, 1849-1985. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2000. 307 pp. $49.95.

On the day the Gannett chain swallowed the Des Moines Register, the newspaper's former publisher and current CEO David Kruidenier, grandson of the owners who helped make the newspaper an Iowa institution, reminded shareholders that the histories of the newspaper and the state were inseparable, and Iowa was a better place because of the Register.

The newspaper had long been known for its statewide influence. At its peak, the Sunday edition reached a remarkable two-thirds of Iowa households. It conducted the first statewide poll operated by a newspaper and was an early champion of civil rights and women's rights. As William B. Friedricks notes in Covering Iowa: The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, 1849-1985, the paper served as "a common meeting ground for all Iowans."

He argues that the history of the newspaper is of great importance to Iowans. But more than that, it mirrors many significant changes in the field of journalism and should be of general interest to media historians. Thus, Friedricks's meticulously researched book guides readers through the ups and downs of the Register, from its birth on the frontier through its sale to Gannett in 1985, when the author suggests it began losing its statewide focus and appeal.

Among the most interesting parts of the book are sections in each chapter on "editorial stances." Positions that the Register and Tribune management took historically on a variety of issues pull the reader into the battles over the temperance and populist movements as well as those for civil liberties. The newspaper called for internationalism prior to World War I, Friedricks notes, despite myths about midwestern isolationism, and spoke out against the violence of a 1931 "cow war," when a group of farmers attacked veterinarians sent to test for diseased livestock. …

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