How would the City of Davenport have covered the recent vetoes by Mayor Bill Gluba of the Dock development plan and the St. Ambrose University rezoning request for a new stadium? And how would it have covered Gluba’s proposal to bring illegal immigrants to Davenport, which was – to put it mildly – poorly received by the city council?
These were the questions that came to mind with the revelation by the Quad-City Times’ Barb Ickes (on the same day as the vetoes) that the Fiscal Year 2015 city budget includes $178,000 for what she described as “a news-based Web site ... [to] shine new light on positive and negative city happenings.”
It’s clear that the site is an attempt to, at least in part, bypass the traditional news media and speak directly to constituents about good things city government is doing and positive developments in Davenport – without that pesky “other side” of the story. And, given our local television stations’ tendency to air unsourced and vaguely sourced stories, one might infer that another motivation is giving those broadcast news operations easily adaptable material that would warmly present Davenport.
But this idea was also pitched by city staff quoted in the article as “bold” and a “deep dive,” words that suggest ambition beyond marketing. As Davenport Business Development Manager (and former daily-newspaper reporter) Tory Brecht said: “As far as we can tell, no U.S. city has embarked on this effort.”
The news site is supposed to be launched in the next few months, and of course it’s impossible to pass judgment on it without actually seeing the thing.
Yet the twin aims of the initiative seem fundamentally incompatible, and it’s hard to envision how the nobler of these goals can be accomplished given the inherent lack of independence in a city-run “news” operation.
And that’s why I return to the Dock, the St. Ambrose stadium, and the Gluba immigration proposal. These were the city’s big stories last month, and one can’t envision a Davenport news site ignoring them while retaining its credibility. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how it would have covered them.