President’s report: INA thrives despite challenges

Karen Spurgeon
2020 Iowa Newspaper Association Board President
Bloomfield Democrat

This has been quite a year for all of us as newspapers and for your Association. The Iowa Newspaper Association’s mission is to “protect, promote, foster and advance the interests of the members of the Iowa newspaper industry and to provide direction to the Association’s two related boards.”  Your association works every day to do that. One of the ways it does that is by lobbying. 

The 2020 Legislative session was quite a roller coaster ride due to the pandemic. Although it started off normally in January, the Legislature suspended the session on March 16 due to the pandemic. After 13 weeks, the Legislature reconvened June 3 and ended session on June 14. Prior to the 13-week suspension the Association had been monitoring many bills including an anti-SLAPP bill, protection for journalism instructors, the number of days allowed to file a complaint with the IPIB, an expanded definition of the 24 hours required for posting agendas, a bill allowing proprietary intellectual property of regents’ schools and hospitals to be confidential, an internet content removal bill and many more.       And lastly—and most important to our members—on the final day of session, the Senate amended a bill dealing with State leasing to add changes to publication requirements for counties without a countywide circulation newspaper. The amendment permitted publication, in these instances, in weekly shoppers.  The INA submitted a veto request to the Governor, and she vetoed the bill on June 30, 2020. 

Along with the work the INA does here in Iowa, it also worked diligently with its national partners to support our industry on federal issues of importance to our industry this past year. 

During the 2021 session, the INA will actively be engaged in legislation to update chapter 349 which outlines newspaper selection for county public notices when no official newspaper is present in the county. 

As with all sessions, there will be many bills that will be monitored. When we need you to engage with your legislator, the INA Executive Director will reach out to you. It is critical that we all be on alert during session—our ability to support or in some cases stop bills relies on our staff, our lobbyists and most importantly our members! 

During the early days of the pandemic the Association ramped up its communication via the Bulletin and many emails from Executive Director Patterson Plank, letting members know about resources that were available and helping members navigate the financial implications of COVID-19. Many of our newspapers took advantage of the free webinar provided by INA, “Small Business Impacts and Resources from the CARES Act” that provided helpful and timely insights. 

 In the other areas of the organization, The Iowa Newspaper Foundation was uniquely positioned to navigate the online world of 2020 due to the work done in previous years. When other organizations were scrambling to move business online, the INF had already provided hundreds of online training programs and was well-versed in the ever-popular Zoom. And the INA Services Co., otherwise known as Customized Newspaper Advertising (C.N.A), ended the year with total gross sales of $7,953,938. This includes sales into Iowa, Wisconsin, and other states’ newspapers, digital advertising, classified and small space display network advertising. More than $4.2 million was sent specifically to Iowa newspapers. In upcoming issues of the Bulletin, you’ll read more about the work of the Foundation and the INA Services Co.