From AJR, July/August 1999 issue
Back to Iowa
A Serving of humble pie accompanies Ken Fuson as he returns to the Des
Moines Register after nearly a three-year hiatus spent writing for the
By Tricia Eller
Tricia Eller is a former AJR editorial assistant.
A serving of humble pie and the discovery that "crow doesn't taste like chicken" accompany Ken Fuson as he returns to the Des Moines Register after nearly a three-year hiatus spent writing for the Baltimore Sun.
Fueled by indignation and homespun Iowan loyalty, Fuson took dramatic leave from the Register in 1996, deeming the Gannett-owned paper a corporate sell-out headed toward a traitorous role of profit-driven success.
"I was discouraged," he confesses. "And I didn't make any secret about it."
Fuson's disillusionment with his employer of 15 years was due in large part to circulation cuts that took the focus out of some of the more rural areas of Iowa. And Fuson, a native of Granger, Iowa (population 624), saw those areas as central to the Register's ability to hold its masthead high under the slogan "The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon."
"It was a huge deal to me," he says of the plans.
Assurances that the cuts weren't as severe as he feared eased Fuson's mind, a save he credits to President and Publisher Barbara A. Henry. Register Editor and Vice President Dennis Ryerson, though, says the focus is still "on growing with central Iowa, because that's where most of the state's growth is and the heart of our circulation."
It seems, then, that time and a case of the homesick blues softened Fuson's feelings, and a kinder, gentler reporter says he made judgments that weren't his to make. The 1998 winner of ASNE's nondeadline writing award now plans to "concentrate on stories" as a general assignment reporter, he says, and leave the running of the paper to those hired to do so.
Fuson's wife and children never made the move to Baltimore, and that tug of family and a never-shaken respect for the Register brought Fuson back. "I grew up with the Register," says the 43-year-old reporter.
Ryerson, for his part, made the return easy. "I'm delighted to have him back," he says.
Not that Fuson's time at the Sun was wasted. Managing Editor William K. Marimow praises the temporary marriage, calling Fuson an "A-plus journalist...and person."
And Fuson has nothing but glowing remarks for the paper, likening his time there to Dorothy's trip to Oz: "It was great, but she had to go home.... Besides, my mom wants to read my stories."