The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news service founded by Stephen J. Berry, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist and an associate professor of journalism at the University of Iowa, and Robert Gutsche Jr., a University of Iowa Ph.D. student and journalist who helped launch the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009. Its first full-time executive director-editor is Lyle Muller, a veteran Iowa journalist whose experience included serving as editor of The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA). He joined the Center in May 2012.
The Center was incorporated as a non-profit in the state of Iowa in February 2010. The IRS granted Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code as a charitable organization in July 2010.
The Iowa Center’s mission is to maintain an independent, non-partisan journalistic program dedicated to producing and encouraging explanatory and investigative journalism in Iowa, engaging in collaborative reporting efforts with Iowa news organizations and educating journalism students.
Our goals are:
- To produce short-term and long term multimedia projects for the Center’s Web site, IowaWatch.org, and to post other information and data that will be accessible to all readers and news outlets in Iowa;
- To establish collaborative relationships with other news organizations and educational institutions for the sharing of stories and information and for the joint production of individual journalistic projects;
- To focus its reporting efforts on public affairs issues and problems in government, health, consumer affairs, education, the environment, sports, criminal justice and other subjects relevant to the people of Iowa;
- To give journalism students the opportunity to learn by working under the supervision and instruction of seasoned professional editors;
- To help journalism students and young professionals enhance their employment potential by giving them the opportunity to build a portfolio of professional work.
IOWAWATCH – A FIVE-YEAR VIEW
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs should be recognized in 2018 as the authority for advancing investigative and public affairs journalism in Iowa through the following:
- Short-term enterprise stories and long-form investigative and explanatory stories, each type fully developed with the most effective and modern multi-media elements.
- Partnerships for collaborations and distribution of stories in print, online, mobile, television and radio broadcasting; and the ability to derive income from those collaborations and distribution.
- An education program recognized by every college and high school journalism program, and every news media outlet in Iowa, as the state’s prime resource for one-on-one mentoring and training of paid student interns, freelancers and young professionals interested in investigative journalism in their era.
- An education program recognized for research that leads to innovative new ways to collect, verify and distribute news stories in a sustainable way.
- Paid staff of five that can 1) analyze data for news stories, 2) develop the business, 3) conduct deep research that leads to original news stories, 4) illustrate stories in creative, meaningful ways and 5) administer the business.
- A business model that produces consistent income to support this public service journalism.
We see investigative reporting as the Center’s main focus. Our Center informs the public so that it can be armed with the knowledge necessary to play its role in a democracy. The Center and its highly motivated journalists – whether students or young professionals – are imbued with the investigative mentality and solely dedicated to the public service mission of our profession.
The Iowa Center – guided by a Board of Directors comprised of news professionals and educators throughout the state – is developing a network of partners for collaboration and distribution of stories.
The Center is led by an executive director-editor. This officer is the principal executive officer of the center, the primary contact with the Board of Directors and the public face of the organization.
The executive director-editor networks with journalism leaders and potential funding sources, raises funds, hires and develops the staff, oversees the editing and production of the Web site and edits all major explanatory and investigative stories.
Stephen J. Berry served as interim executive director-editor of the organization during its first two years, working voluntarily to organize and establish the Center, obtain tax-exempt status and raise start-up funding. He continues to volunteer as the executive director’s go-to, always-accessible primary adviser. He plays a major role in editing stories while traveling and working with the executive director-editor in raising funds, and, when needed, helping to supervise staff and interns.
The Center will focus on two types of stories:
- Short-term enterprise stories;
- Long-form investigative and explanatory stories, with each type fully developed with the most effective multi-media elements.
The Center also will produce:
- Sports investigative projects;
- Investigations into consumer affairs issues;
- Projects that focus on the performance [or lack of performance] by state and local regulatory agencies;
- Packages about arts and culture.
Our reporters are student interns who report on their own, or side-by-side with professional reporters employed by our news partners. We also may take on assignments from our news partners.
To fit the education portion of our mission, we will use our special section, “From the Classroom,” as an outlet for stories submitted to us from journalism classes. We will consider each story and do any necessary editing and additional reporting prior to publication.
Because of the importance of clips and the learning value of professional editing, this section would be particularly appealing to student journalists and a promising source of content for the Center.
The Iowa Center works under the ethical guidelines of the Society of Professional Journalists, incorporating them into its reporting and editing processes as established by the Center for Public Integrity.
How the two meet
Education is a major focus for the Center. And as the commercial news industry’s business model falters, we’re joining the growing number of non-profits across the country trying to fill the gap. We train new journalists about how to do ethical, accurate and transparent journalism.
We seek to produce highly motivated journalists – whether they are students or professionals – imbued with the investigative mentality.
We wish to hold public officials to high standards, assist regional and local news outlets in Iowa in the production of independent investigative and depth journalism, and provide an intense and meaningful educational experience and training for young journalists.