Workforce Development fiasco

This is primary election day, so I don’t have a lot of time to explain the absolutely weird experience a group of reporters just experienced, but I’ll give you a sketch.

The Iowa Workforce Development agency’s interim director Dave Neil and the Iowa Department of Administrative Services director Molly Anderson were sitting in a conference room, at a conference table, and Rodell Mollineau — Governor Vilsack’s communications director was sitting in a chair at the side of the room when the gaggle of reporters and television photographers walked in the room.  Kerry Koonce, Iowa Workfroce Development’s "media relations" person, was engaged in a conflict with the television reporters who were there to cover the sit-down session with Neil and Anderson.  The "rules" – which Mollineau later interjected as being his idea — were that it was a "pen and paper" session which could not be videotaped because there wasn’t room in the room for all the television cameras.

Well, there was room for the television cameras.  And two of the television reporters had brought along hand-held cameras just in case there was a legit space-crunch issue.  Anderson explained the idea to the assembled reporters:  "I think what we wanted to do was to afford an opportunity for you (reporters) to ask us questions and we would respond in as comfortably as possible and sometimes when you’ve got the cameras staring at you, you really don’t get to the bottom of the report like this, it’s hard in that kind of forum so my sense is that they thought that this was the best way for us to answer all of the questions that you might have rather than try to get soundbites."   

"Who is they?" Des Moines Register Clark Kauffman asked.

"I’m sorry it was…Kerry and Deb and myself," Mollineau replied.

"You don’t feel comfortable talking with us, but microphones are fine but cameras aren’t fine?" asked KCCI’s Eric Hanson.  "Recording audio is fine, but recording video changes the answers?"

"I think that in statehouses and capitols all across the country people have ‘pen and pads’ every day and perhaps maybe in Iowa there hasn’t been but," Mollineau says.

"We are in Iowa, and that’s what we’re used to," Hanson responded.

Mollineau kept the argument going, accusing reporters of "making" the event about the lack of access rather than the substance of the report — which was released days ago. 

"It looks like you’re hiding," another reporter told Mollineau.

"If you want to blame anybody, blame me," Mollineau said.

There was a general cacaphony of voices as the quibbling continued, then Dave Neil waded in — agreeing to have one camera pool the event.

"I didn’t set this up," Neil said.  "It doesn’t bother me. If everbody’s in agreement with one camera, let’s go forward.  Let’s get this over with."

It was at that point Kauffman asked for clarification as to why the event was set up.

"There was a request from a reporter to ask us questions.  It was my suggestion that we do it like this to save time," Neil says.  "…There’s a lot of you folks and we’ve got work to do." 

Kaufmann asked "Who is the reporter who requested the meeting?"

"From a Des Moines Register guy," Neil began, then Anderson finished: "Clark Kauffman."

"That’s him," Jeneane Beck from KUNI told Neil and Anderson, pointing at Kauffman.

Do I really need to say it?  The people in the midst of dealing with this scandal don’t know the reporter at the Register who’s been writing the most about it. 


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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.