Yet we often ask ourselves, by publishing this weekly newspaper, "Have we helped to create meaningful change in our community?" Or rather, "Does what we do make a difference?"
Our response varies depending on the subject matter one chooses for such an evaluation.
Culturally, the Reader has been an agent of awareness and, one would hope, modernity. The Quad Cities have grown tremendously in the cultural arena over the past 10 years, and the Reader has consistently been there as the cultural scene's critic and cheerleader. Interestingly, we're often described as the "artsy" paper for the Quad Cities by the older establishment, while the hipsters out there often wonder why we bother with economic development, local elections, and national lawmaking.
Culturally there is no question the Reader has helped create growth. In tandem, the Reader has also contributed to the health and vitality of our community via its coverage of business and politics. Review the chart on page 11 and notice that 41 percent of our cover stories over the past 10 years have been about business and/or government.
In a world heavily focused on short-term gains and immediate gratification, the Reader looks at a bigger picture, examining the long-term effects of many of the political and economic decisions made in our times. Our gut reaction is we've been successful at shining some light on key issues and providing a perspective unavailable elsewhere in the market. We've been a cheerleader for responsible land-use planning and effective measures for business attraction. Likewise we've often been the sole critics of foolhardy development deals that answer the immediate needs of a few shortsighted developers. As one prominent realtor put it publicly at a chamber function several years ago: "We develop the greenfields because that is the low-hanging fruit."
One could say we are in an age of enlightenment about the folly of such poor planning for unsustainable development. While communities across the nation implement successful modern developments with sustainable principles, Davenport is clearly behind the curve. Hopefully the new urban development plan for city-owned property at 53rd Street and Eastern Avenue will cause a positive shift in the development paradigm that will otherwise surely put Davenport at a competitive disadvantage for business and job attraction in the not-so-distant future. As one Davenport native, now living in Virginia and considering moving his bio-software company to Davenport, put it, "I'm not sure I want to move to a community where they are building two Super Wal-Marts."
It's tough being the skunk at the lawn party more often than not, though. It takes a lot of energy. The fantasy is that our readership finds the information presented in our pages so compelling that a rebirth of community engagement begins to emerge. More voices are heard, more volunteerism, greater attendance at public meetings and events, but most important of all, a truly inspired increase in voter turnout for all elections.
As we've written time and again in these pages, the citizenry has the power to create its own change with individual votes, especially with city-council elections. But when voter turnout during local elections for representatives who manage $100-million budgets (cities and school boards) is as low as 12 percent, there is a nagging sense of despair that all the compelling information, such as charts that reveal candidates' voting records and candidate surveys, in the world is not going to ignite voter interest and eradicate apathy.
It is genuinely perplexing and frustrating, especially with all the relevant information available to voters, that the public is unwilling to mobilize enough to hold elected officials (both locally and nationally) accountable for their actions.
The media is no less to blame. Most of the information consumers are fed by the mainstream media is drivel. There's an occasional ray of brilliance, but the vast majority of what we are exposed to via the majority of media outlets only serves to dumb our populace down, deliberately avoiding any challenge to become more informed and/or engaged.
Perfect examples of this are CNN's dual news networks: The CNN network for America is the one that set the standard for commodifying war reporting as infotainment and pioneered strategic partnerships with entertainment magazines such as People under the guise of "news." Meanwhile CNN produces and broadcasts, outside U.S. borders, another network for the rest of the world, CNN International; this news presentation is devoid of any ethnocentrism, presented in a contextual manner without fanfare and glitz, covering topics that affect the world from a global perspective.
Beginning on page 6 you will find an overview of the subject matters and themes that our cover stories have featured as well a timeline of community and Reader milestones over the past 10 years.
While we often ponder the efficacy of our efforts, we equally remind ourselves that we are fortunate and blessed to have the Reader as an outlet for this expression of our ideas, fears, and hopes. With a weekly readership of more than 40,000, we know our readers are like-minded individuals on at least one and perhaps many levels. They, too, want to see a thriving, modern, freethinking community engaged in sustainable growth.
We take our mission here at the Reader very seriously. We are proud to be a community publication in every sense of the word. In the bigger picture, the media is supposed to function as the Fourth Estate, bringing accountability to the other three (executive, legislative, and judicial) by acting as the watchdog and quasi-liaison between the public and government, corporate America, and the international sector, to name a few. This role is as important to the health and integrity of democracy as any other of the estates. The Reader, along with the nation's other alternative newsweeklies (there is at least one such publication in every major city in America), is the last bastion of independent journalism. We do not place a monetary value on editorial content, ensuring the integrity of our content.
The past 10 years for the Quad Cities have been a decade of exciting new beginnings: renewed recognition of our downtowns as vital urban cores worth investing in, new bi-state strategic planning, and unified national lobbying efforts on issues such as transportation and environmental cleanup. The Quad Cities are a one-of-a-kind meld of unique communities with loads of world-altering history and innovations. The river itself is a constant source of quiet but massive energy, providing both inspiration and opportunity. The Quad Cities have much to offer culturally, spiritually, intellectually, and recreationally. Its people are friendly, hard-working, and resilient.
Still, this region needs an infusion of new leaders. The old guard, who enjoy positions of influence simply as a result of their parents' and grandparents' contributions, needs to move over and allow a new crop of leaders in business and government to emerge. This new guard is open to change and is rooted in a healthy vision for long-term growth, allowing our community to compete on a modern global playing field. Coupled with the continued growth of our downtowns, enhancement of our regional transportation systems (e.g. light rail), and open, accountable government, the Quad Cities will succeed in retaining and attracting the employment talent it needs to be a top-tier Midwestern place to live, work, and grow.
Finally, this publication would not have the integrity, vibrancy, or relevance it enjoys without the long-term efforts of the following individuals whose contributions and participation can never be fully measured. Our deepest appreciation and thanks to: Lanny Powell (first copy editor); Dave Doxsee (technical advisor); Jeff Wichman (first A&E editor); Tim Read (graphic artist); Joe Collins (City Shorts); Kevin Schafer (photographer); Mike Schulz (movie critic); Mark Arnould (distributor); Jason Stuart (distributor); John Ditto (distributor); Jay Strickland (distributor); Jimmie Jones (music historian); Garry Lee Wright (columnist); Zach Carstensen (symphony critic); Mike LoGuidice (art critic); and Rich Miller (columnist).
Here's to ten more years ... .