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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Des Moines sportscaster’s ‘eggroll’ remark sparks concern

By Dana Boone | 09.11.08 | 12:43 pm

Liat Paul couldn’t believe her ears.

Sportscaster Chris Hassel (Photo: whotv.com)

Sportscaster Chris Hassel (Photo: whotv.com)

On Aug. 10 as she watched a WHO-TV Sunday evening broadcast on Channel 13, sports reporter Chris Hassel recapped the 2008 Summer Olympics being held in Beijing by referring to the Chinese men’s basketball team as the U.S.’s first “eggroll on their plate.”

“I just got angry,” Paul told about 50 people who gathered inside Drake University’s Harmon Arts Center for a “Public Forum on Race and Ethnicity in Public Discourse.”

Since the newscast, Paul, who is Vietnamese, said she has traded nearly 10 emails with WHO’s News Director Rod Peterson, sports reporters Chris Hassel and Andy Fales and Dale Woods, general manager.

Most disturbing, Paul told the audience and panel, was an email she received from Fales on Aug. 11. Paul said Fales wrote that she was “being too sensitive.” He also wrote that “Referencing eggrolls when speaking of China is akin to referencing hamburgers when discussing Americans.”

Cyndi Chen, division administrator of the Status of Iowans of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage, said the goal of the forum held on Tuesday was to create an open dialogue and a “better place to live” by addressing inappropriate comments in the media.

“Reporting is not comedy,” Chen said. “Why are reporters using those words to refer to people? I don’t like it. I’m more than just food.”

No one from WHO-TV participated in the forum. In an interview on Wednesday with Iowa Independent, Peterson, the station’s News Director, said he was invited to sponsor and be a part of the forum, but was never provided details of the event, which Chen denied.

Peterson, who is Hassel and Fales’ boss, deflected Iowa Independent’s questions about whether the comments made on the newscast and in Fales’ email were offensive, professional and represented the station.

“It would be in Ms. Paul’s opinion,” that the comments were offensive, Peterson said.

The meeting and panel included Drake University professors Judy Allen, associate professor of psychology; Lenore Metrick-Chen, assistant professor of art and design; and Sandra Patton-Imani, associate professor of American Studies; and Leland Searles, professor of sociocultural anthropology at Des Moines Area Community College and Rudy Simms, executive director of the Des Moines Human Rights Commission.

Paul wrote Peterson on Aug. 11 that the sportscaster’s attempt at humor was “something a news reporter should be unbiased to and above” and played into racial stereotypes.

“This statement was small-minded and highly inappropriate for a news station,” Paul wrote.
Paul also wrote a letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register voicing her concerns.

Patton-Imani, associate professor of American Studies at Drake, said when people of color object to such comments, they are often told they’re being too sensitive, but there is no such thing as “innocent language.”

“So when racial comments are made, we need to think critically about how they support white supremacy. About how they foster discrimination,” she said. “About how they even unwittingly perpetuate a society where people are silently ranked by race, ethnicity, history and power.”

Paul provided a copy of Fales’ email to forum participants. Fales stated, “Censoring language is a very half-assed method of changing thought. It places blame on the wrong entity and does nothing to change the actual condition. What’s more, it reveals (an) inner lining of insecurity, fear and hostility that does far more to exacerbate the situation than language itself.”

Fales stated in the email that he understood the connotations of racial slurs like “chinaman and gook” and that it was a “good thing that we’ve taught ourselves to move away from them. But to go up in arms about the affable association of an appetizer, which is in no way linked to poverty, oppression or violence is pushing the envelope of political correctness too far.”

Searles, the DMACC professor of Sociocultural Anthropology, said equating a group of people with food isn’t an innocent act, which he found offensive.

“There’s almost an implied aggression. If you are an eggroll and I’m going to eat you metaphorically speaking, I’m going to do violence against you,” Searles said. “There’s a metaphorical death in calling a team a group of eggrolls or referring to them as eggrolls.”

Many people who spoke at the forum denounced the comments and shared similar stories of media insensitivity. Examples included Don Imus, a commentator who referred to the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball team as “nappy headed hos”; the term “Welfare Queen” and how the media used it in reference to black women; and the use of the terms “illegal immigrant and undocumented immigrant.”, among others. The panelist discussed the effects of such language on society.

One Drake professor in the audience who did not give his name said the media has failed to address fears about the U.S. “slipping” and China moving ahead.

Audience member Don Brown, who lives in West Des Moines and formerly worked at WHO-TV and the Des Moines Register, told the panel that he has experienced anger over comments made by WHO-TV sportscasters regarding Tiger Woods. Brown said he also contacted the reporters who “tried to minimize it.”

Allen, the Drake associate professor of psychology, said the comments objectified, devalued and dehumanized people. She said the use of humor is a way to rationalize the comments, but such comments harm the bystanders who hear it as well as those who make the utterances by destroying empathy.

Chen said Fales offered to meet one-on-one with Paul, but Paul felt uncomfortable with the idea. Paul said she is still awaiting answers and an apology.

“Was the response from Fales WHO’s official response?” Paul said. “And if not, what are they going to do?”

Peterson, who has been news director for two years, said he met with Chen on Aug. 19 and that the meeting was “very good.”

Chen said that Peterson was unaware at that point about Fales’ email to Paul. She said she questioned him on whether Fales’ email followed station protocol. They also discussed reporting in general, and she invited him to sponsor and participate in the forum.

Peterson said reporters at WHO-TV are instructed to copy him with any email correspondence they have with viewers, as that correspondence becomes a part of the station’s public file with the Federal Communications Commission. Peterson said Fales did not copy him on the email response he sent to Paul and was told that he should have.

Peterson said WHO-TV staff are concerned about the needs of “all of our viewers.”

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