Transparency Matters in Government and the Media

January 25, 2023
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A
123 S. Linn Street

Transparency in public governance and the media and why it matters will be discussed by Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, and Laura Belin, editor of the Bleeding Heartland blog.

Public officials at all levels of government are required to conduct the public's business in the open with very few exceptions. Not only is transparency in government important, but it is also equally important for the media and journalists covering the news. Increasingly, elected officials don't think of themselves as public servants, and that mindset extends to others who control access to public records. People paid with taxpayer dollars, elected or hired to positions of public service, have a responsibility to provide the public access to information, but politicization has changed the way elected officials think. Likewise, in an industry deluged with acquisitions, mergers, rapid technological advances, and social media platforms that flout journalistic norms, incisive news coverage has declined and objectivity often bows to the pressures of cultural politics or corporate priorities.

Randy Evans is Des Moines is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, a 45-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan education and advocacy organization that works for better open government and government accountability. Evans took over the role with the FOI Council in October 2015 after a 40-year career with The Des Moines Register. He joined the Register in 1974, first as a news reporter and then in various editing roles, including state editor, metro editor, news editor, and assistant managing editor. He was editor of the Register's opinion pages during his final four years with the newspaper.

As Bleeding Heartland's lead author, Laura Belin writes about Iowa politics. Des Moines Cityview's "Civic Skinny" called Belin "probably the hardest-working - and perhaps the best - political reporter in the state" and "one of the best investigative reporters in the state." The Fix at The Washington Post named Belin one of Iowa's outstanding political reporters in 2020 and named Bleeding Heartland among the "best state-based political blogs." Politico put Belin on its list of "early state must-follows." Charlies Pierce of Esquire has called Bleeding Heartland an "essential Iowa political blog."

The presentation is hosted by the education committee of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County (LWVJC). The Gazette and the Iowa City Public Library are League partners for the education series. The presentation will be offered in-person and streamed live on the library's channel. Library staff will also record it for rebroadcast on the ICPL YouTube channel and the LWVJC website and Facebook page.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Connie Sherman at connie-sherman@uiowa.edu.