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Thoughts from a sleep-deprived journalist on deadline

Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 10:56 a.m. CDT

It’s 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m thinking to myself I am perhaps one of only four people in all of Newton who is awake.

There’s the guy who delivers the Des Moines Register, making his rounds. There’s the guy walking down First Avenue, looking like he just stopped by Kum & Go. Then, there’s that bright, smiling guy working behind the counter at the aforementioned convenience store.

Of course, I’m not seriously thinking we’re the only people up and about right now. But, this being the second year in a row I’m up this early to ensure we make our press deadline for the annual pre-Thanksgiving “TMC” newspaper, it’s becoming clearer to me that God made this time of the day dark for a reason.

We should be sleeping.

• • •

It’s 6 a.m. now and I’m reading some of the media reports from yesterday’s Newton City Council meeting, as well as the comments that go with them. Some make me laugh out loud. Others make me just shake my head in dismay.

Having been through enough business acquisition stories over the years, the “secrecy” surrounding the sale of Iowa Speedway really isn’t all that unusual. Neither is the “blind” transfer of the development agreement and lease at yesterday’s meeting.

As we pointed out in our report — and the Des Moines media should have pointed out in theirs — the speedway didn’t need the city’s approval to reassign either. The track and outlying facilities were already in place, which meant the speedway ownership could transfer those assignments at-will to future ownership.

The new ownership, if it should ever decide to sell in the future, will have that same right.

Rusty Wallace made an excellent point, one that I wish more folks around here would take to heart. He noted all the money the Clement family has sunk into the speedway since they took over ownership — without putting a real dollar value on it, I would guess it’s in the millions, though — and said:

“They’ve been spending, spending, spending, keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, but they’re about spent out. We’ve had to really cut costs. If anybody on the planet knew how much the Clement family has given this track, they would be on their knees saying, ‘Thank you.’ ”

I’m not on my knees, but I do want to thank the Clement family for doing something tremendously good for their hometown. They didn’t have to, and the fact that they did speaks volumes for the people they are.

• • •

It’s 7 a.m. now, and I see from Jason Parkin that Newton Mayor Mike Hansen is about to come on KCWI’s “Great Day” show to talk about Iowa Speedway. I doubt they’re going to get much more than what the rest of the Des Moines TV stations have gotten so far.

I’m finding it interesting that every TV station in Central Iowa has jumped into the midst of the feeding frenzy surrounding Iowa Speedway. Yes, I know it’s November Sweeps, but I can’t help but be troubled by the all-out push to “be the first” to report the news.

Granted, it’s the job of the local media to get the news in the hands of their audiences in the most timely and accurate manner possible. But, we also have a responsibility to those we serve to not harm our community in the process.

I have seen economic development deals fall apart at the 11th hour because of media types with myopic worldviews who “broke the news” too quickly. In the end, the news really did get broken — irreparably.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be the guy who cost my community and my state tens of millions of dollars in immediate and future economic development.

Based on what I know, and even more on “educated speculation,” I think the announcement of the new ownership — when it happens — will be a big deal for Newton. But I also know bigger news will be on the horizon, and that’s not speculation.

• • •

It’s 8 a.m., and most folks are just arriving for work. I’m already halfway through a “work day.” I plan to go home for a little bit to get some rest and freshen up a little more before we sit down for our weekly editorial staff meeting.

I’m bleary-eyed, having only had four hours sleep last night, but sleeping isn’t an option today. News from the speedway may break at any moment, and I need to be ready to go on a moment’s notice if it does.

But, in all honesty, this is why I love this job so much. Journalists get an adrenaline rush from days like today. That’s enough to keep me going, no sleep and all.

• • •

It’s 11 a.m., and I’m about to go into our weekly editorial staff meeting. I took about 90 minutes off to rest at home a little, and it definitely gave me a little extra “go” for the rest of the day.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of these folks who work with me at the Daily News. A typical issue of the Daily News is 12 to 16 “broadsheet” pages. Over the past 24 hours, however, we put out five newspapers with 84 equivalent broadsheet pages.

We have one more newspaper to get started on this afternoon. So, I’ll back at it very soon.

• • •

It’s 2 p.m. I can honestly say I did not see this development coming. This is almost unprecedented in all of motorsports, and creates opportunities for Iowa Speedway no other racetrack in the world will be able to boast.

This isn’t huge for Newton, and Iowa. It’s bigger than that. I’ve rifled through my thesaurus to find the appropriate word, and it’s just not there.

We’ve known something was afoot at Iowa Speedway for a couple months, but we didn’t know what it was until the sale was announced. We still don’t know for sure. But, with a little more educated speculation, it doesn’t take any imagination to know the Dec. 12 announcement will be the biggest news in Newton in a long, long time.

• • •

It’s 6 p.m., and I’m headed home for a much-needed break. Friday’s newspaper is off to a great start, to where “a monkey and a pair of trainees” could get it out the door, so I’ll be in good shape when I return.

I’m thankful for many things: a God who loves me, a wife and children who love me, a good job, a great community, awesome friends and the knowledge that good times are ahead.

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving with my wife and children. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday with those you love, as well.

• • •

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

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