Sioux City Journal/photos by Bret Hayworth

In Iowa, in the middle of the country,
right in the middle of the action


is the political reporter for The Sioux City Journal.

He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1996.

He's gone through four election cycles, dating back to joining the paper in September 2002.

He is working a half hour from where he grew up in Kingsley, Iowa, before going onto getting two degrees from the University of Northern Iowa.

He and his wife Jamie are raising two young elementary student girls. He's a big music and movie buff, and owns a set of drums, for criminy sake.

"I get to see so many more national figures
than reporters elsewhere.

That makes the job even more of a kick."

NAD: Bret, hello, welcome.

Are you living your dream?

What is great about being a reporter?

Is there anything not-so-great?

You started at a small paper, now the Journal, what's next?

Would you rather write about sports?


I'm definitely enjoying the beat, here as we sit just after the conclusion of the long 2008 election cycle. Yeah, they're all long cycles, but this one seemed moreso, given the presidential campaign in there.

I've now worked here six years, the same length as my initial journalism stop at the Carroll Daily Times Herald, also in Iowa.

The years at the Journal have flown by and I don't foresee pursuing other positions elsewhere.

NAD: Being in Iowa, you get to talk to lots of presidential candidates, and they have to court you, in a way, right?

Pretty cool?

Or maybe you don't look at it that way, how about this — do you enjoy presidential season?

How many have you done now? Who was your favorite interview, person to meet, most interesting? Least ...?


Being an Iowa reporter with the first-in-nation caucuses, I know I get to see so many more national figures than reporters elsewhere. That makes the job even more of a kick.

I imagine "just" covering state and local races wouldn't be as spicy without the presidential aspirations picking around the area.

It was a bigger year than typical, of course, since it was an open seat and we had presidential candidates from both major parties in droves.

That made it tougher to keep up with the numerous stops, and on some days there were more than one.

I recall August 2007 when I covered two GOP guys on the same day, Tom Tancredo in the morning in the city and then Ron Paul out at Lawton on one of the humidest days of the summer.

And later in the year, two of the Top Three polling Dems were in the city on the same day, John Edwards and Barack Obama.

Ron Paul was an interesting guy to cover, as was John McCain in many appearances.

I got a few one-on-ones with McCain, which was fun, since we threw out some questions our readers forwarded.

On the Democratic side, I many times covered Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Biden had a real way with people that impressed on a Fourth of July event.

I got a few one-on-ones with McCain, which was fun.

NAD: Can you write whatever you want?

The media, maybe especially print media, is kind of under fire, at least in certain online circles, saying that the media only portrays the views of the wealthy, who own everything.

What is your view of that from your seat in the newsroom?


I'd say I'm split pretty well down the middle on coming up with own story topics and having the others provided to me.

There's never been a political topic off limits. Some are more controversial than others, but the Journal has never shied away from any topics arising in an election.

I've enjoyed having a political blog beginning in 2006.

I try to use it to give behind-the-scenes observations that don't make it into the story, or how the genesis for an article came about.

I use it to frame issues and am very wary of giving an opinion.

It's not quite a column, in my view. Give it a look here at

NAD: Do you think newspapers will survive?

Should they?


It is a hard time for newspapers, and there's definitely uncertainty regarding what the future some years off will hold for the printed product delivered to doorsteps.

We here at the Journal are bucking the national trend, with strong growth in Web readership and slight growth as well in our print circulation over the last couple years.

News gathering organizations of newspapers will have a future, for they are the entities going to council, county and school board meetings, engaging in community journalism.

Freelance bloggers and the like typically aren't originating news, but reacting to what the journalists have reported.

NAD: Any desire to be an editor? Publisher?


I enjoy being a beat reporter, doing the grunt work of reporting. I don't see going up the ladder and entering management as an editor.

I enjoy being a beat reporter, doing the grunt work of reporting.

NAD: How do you deal with the daily grind, month after month, year after year. What keeps you going?


The political reporting job has very little down time.

I typically see maybe 1.5 months or so from the end of a November general election until things rachet up again for the next cycle or the tri-state legislatures convene.

I've done four cycles now, starting with 2002, and while 2008 was long, it seemed to go the smoothest.

That dawned on me in mid-October, I wasn't feeling the pressure like I had in the prior final-month-rushes.

I think that has to do with support and oversight from editors, plus the fact that I have a growing stable of sources this far into my tenure. Cell phone access makes the job easier too.

I enjoy the work and while it can be a grind, my bosses are good at making sure I'm rarely working more than five (and never more than six) days in a row.

There's a chance to refresh and my bosses also had a few other reporters pitch in on political stories.

At home, I have two girls, ages 8 and 5, who are very entertaining, making it very easy to leave my work at work.

For fun, I workout about five times a week, listen to a lot of music and go to movies with my wife.

It seems like a good mix of home life and work.

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