Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

As some of you may already be aware, Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. David S. Bennahum, our chief executive and founder, announced late yesterday afternoon that two of our sister sites, The Minnesota Independent and The Michigan Messenger, would close and their content archive would be moved to The American Independent.

If you are looking for more information on the “shift in strategy” that was stated by Bennahum Wednesday on the page in Minnesota and the page in Michigan, I encourage you to reach out to him and/or our parent company directly. I am not a company spokeswoman and it is doubtful that I hold the answers you seek.

What I want to provide is an update to our readers on what’s taken place here in Iowa.

The Iowa team, which was most recently comprised of Andrew Duffelmeyer and me, learned Wednesday of the shift described by Bennahum. Duffelmeyer, who began his tenure with us only a few weeks ago and I cannot praise enough for being a wonderful co-worker and talented and hard-working journalist, was let go. As I’ve already told him personally, I wish I had more to offer than my condolences.

As for me, I have a decision to make by the close of business on Friday. The decision, as it was explained to me, is not one of will I stay or will I go, but is centered on the timing of my departure. Regardless of my decision, the practical future of The Iowa Independent and the content archive that so many amazing journalists have contributed to for almost the past five years is out of my control.

When you boil everything down, I think the day-to-day obligation of a reporter is to gather information and provide readers with the story. The stories reporters tell aren’t always happy or pieces that we enjoyed creating, but we fulfill our obligation and do the job.

I know that was the case for me in 2008 when, after capturing images of the Cedar River engulfing my portion of the state, I ran several rain-soaked blocks back to my car and collapsed in a pool of my own tears on a nearby curb. Similar emotions emerged as a part of the reporting I did in the aftermath of the immigration raid in Postville, except in that case I cried alongside those I interviewed.

And, lest you think I’m just a teary-eyed chick who breaks down over laundry detergent commercials, other reporters have relayed — typically following a few drinks, mind you — that they have driven a few blocks down the road after an interview to pull over to think, smack their steering wheels or cry. Others have stopped an interview in mid-stream because of the emotional toll it was taking on their subjects and themselves.

The truth is that raw emotions cannot simply be observed; they are absorbed. The other truth is that sometimes the most mundane of story lines will unknowingly place a journalist on a collision path with an emotionally fraught individual. By my estimation, that’s the bittersweet part or, if you like, the double-edged sword of working as a reporter: you never really know what the day is going to hold.

There are good days and truly inspirational people all along the way, but the emotional minefield is one that reporters acknowledge and freely transverse. I think we do that because there is something within us that makes us want to tell the stories, to help others to understand something beyond themselves. We want to sound alarms when warranted and calm fears when needed. We want you to know what’s going on around you — even the unpleasant stuff and, perhaps, especially the unpleasant stuff.

I don’t yet know what my decision will be or, if I’m completely honest, if such a decision will continue to exist once I publish this post.

As has happened before, I have absorbed the emotional devastation that surrounds me, and all I really know is that I need to sit on the curb for a little while and make some sense of it before I can be of any help to anyone else.

Between now and Monday, maybe I’ll figure it out. If so, posts will resume here without another mention from me of what’s happened. If not … well, I want to thank you for taking my calls, answering my emails and, above all else, reading. I will forever be grateful for the journey and the people along the way.

In the words of Orson Welles, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”