Dispatches from Des Moines


By Scott Robertson

The city of Des Moines, Iowa played host to the 2016 Alliance of Area Business Publishers summer conference last weekend, and this year, for the first time, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA, sister publication of News & Neighbor, attended. Here are a few notes I thought might be worth sharing from the experience.

We are entering the second age of silent movies. One presenter told us more than 88 percent of social media users are watching video on their phones, and the number who do so with the volume off is growing rapidly. Lots of users apparently don’t want to wear their earbuds or Beats brand headphones while scrolling through their social sites, but do want to watch the video shorts there. So subtitles aren’t just for foreign films anymore.

I went to the Midwest and learned about the South. One decidedly southern presenter (used to work at CNN, now works in Florida) turned me on to thebittersoutherner.com. It’s a great site for intelligent, thoughtful writing by and about Southerners. I went for five minutes and stayed for 30.

Des Moines’ slogan for tourism: “Des Moines Hell Yes.” The Greater Des Moines Partnership used the slogan as part of its “Des Moines Embassy” campaign at last year’s SXSW. It is an actual part of Des Moines’ economic development efforts. The city is far more avant garde than its staid “insurance town” reputation would lead one to believe.

Never thought I’d attend a gay pride parade, but after what had happened in Orlando just hours before, I was very curious how the Des Moines event would feel. I was eating lunch with a small group of other news people a block away from the parade route, and since our flights out of Des Moines weren’t for another few hours, we decided to attend.

I was surprised. I had expected mourning. I saw the same celebratory atmosphere I would have anticipated had nothing happened in Florida. At first I thought, “These people don’t get it.” But then I realized their reaction to terror was what I wished our entire nation’s had been since 9/11. As a country, we have changed the way we do so many things because of our fear of terror. We created the TSA, a massive government boondoggle. Conservatives got really afraid of Muslims. Liberals got even more afraid of guns. You know who the people in that parade were afraid of? Nobody. Their attitude was, “We will continue to be who we are and go about our business as usual. We will not be redefined because of someone else’s actions or give in to fear.” I have to admire the strength of that stand.

Delta in Atlanta remains Delta in Atlanta. One month after having spent six hours waiting for Delta to replace a broken plane for an ATL-TRI flight, I got to enjoy the following chain of events Sunday night: Arrived in Atlanta from Des Moines. The plane for our connecting flight was broken. Delta sent us to another plane at another gate. We boarded it and taxied to the runway. We were then told this plane was broken too, and taxied back to the gate. As we sat on the plane at the gate, while repairs were being effected, the pilot had the guts to get on the PA and tell us, “I’ve had a long day too.” One of my fellow passengers muttered, loudly enough for several of us to hear, “Well, we’re all real proud of you for hanging in there, chief.”

A friend texted me, “If you are going to hell, you have to go through Atlanta first.” So to sum up the trip: Des Moines? Hell yes. Atlanta? Yes, it was hell. And as always, it’s good to be back home in Johnson City.



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