OPINION: DES MOINES REGISTER MISSTEPS IN KING SAGA

NATHAN STEPHANY, STAFF WRITER

The Des Moines Register daily newspaper is a staple of life in Iowa. Growing up only a half-hour from Des Moines, it made regular appearances on the kitchen table or scattered around the house. It has taken 20 years to realize that the Des Moines Register is fallible.

The story began on Sept. 14 with the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game, played in Ames’ Jack Trice Stadium and streamed on ESPN. Carson King, an Altoona resident, appeared on the channel’s broadcast of “College Game Day” with a sign reading “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” with a link to King’s personal Venmo account.

After $1,600 was donated, King announced he would donate the money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Busch Light and Venmo stated each would match the donation.

When the Des Moines Register wrote a feature on King, what happened next became national news. In the profile, the Register revealed controversial tweets on King’s social media from when he was 16 years old. King publicly apologized, but Busch severed ties with him in regards to the donation.

Iowans did not take this lightly. Support for King poured in through social media posts and donations. Outrage against the Des Moines Register and Busch led to people declaring they would cancel subscriptions.

In addition, many argued that the Register was being hypocritical after the reporter who had written the feature had been found to have a history of controversial social media posts, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Registrar’s decision to publish the tweets by King does not mean the newspaper was not looking for trouble. This was not, I believe, politically motivated. The discovery of King’s tweets came from a typical background check that is conducted for each news story, according to the Des Moines Register.

What many have questioned is why the tweets were included in the article and were the tweets relevant to the story. There is no clear answer.
In an editorial by Carol Hunter, the Register’s executive director, that ran in the paper on Sept. 26, the paper decided after much deliberation to include references to the tweets because they were publicly available.

I am a journalism student and, therefore, more inclined to defend the freedom of the press. I understand the decisions made with the story and I believe I would make similar decisions cited in the First Amendment.There have even been calls to put the newspaper out of business on social media. That is too far.

The Des Moines Register employs hundreds of people and is the largest newspaper in the state of Iowa. Mistakes were made and the public is not happy at the moment. However, the Register is working to address the mistakes. The reporter who wrote the profile has been let go and the Register has made promises to better deliver on background checks of its employees.

King’s original mission of raising money for the Children’s Hospital is still going strong and has raised almost three million dollars.

The job of journalists and the media is to uncover facts. I plan to support the Des Moines Register in the future. All that can be done when things like this occur is to apologize and continue to do our jobs.

Knowing they have made mistakes, I will continue to support the Des Moines Register in the future. All that can be done when things like this occur is to apologize for causing discomfort and continue to do our jobs.

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