Starting Line is back from a much needed week-and-a-half break from writing over the holidays, though we were still plenty busy during that time. We’ve got a lot of great stories in the pipe for this week and next, but let’s first take a quick look back at our accomplishments in 2017.
Let’s start with the most impressive factor: our readership. Starting Line ended 2017 with just under 2 million total views for the year. That’s easily double our previous two years. A good chunk of that was an explosion in views during the legislative session, each month of which eclipsed our totals during the final month of the 2016 Iowa Caucus.
It was not how I originally thought it would go. Back in December of 2016 I wondered how we could possibly find enough interesting stories to keep our coverage in 2017. At the time, it seemed the Democratic gubernatorial primary would consist of only Andy McGuire and Liz Mathis. No one knew who was considering running for Congress. The full-Republican control of Iowa government seemed like it would keep us busy during session, but it was unclear what would come after.
And then 2017 happened. Seven-way primaries in the Democrats’ gubernatorial race and 3rd District, a four-way contest in the 1st and three candidates in the 4th. Governor Branstad off to China, with Governor Reynolds taking over a collapsing state government. 2020 hopefuls already visiting the state. And, as always, Iowa Republican politicians said lots of stupid stuff.
In covering all those developments this year, I think Starting Line really accomplished our overarching mission: to cover Iowa politics in a unique way that makes it understandable, accessible and fun to those who read it.
The one downside, however, of so much Iowa political turmoil in 2017 was that I never got to focus as much attention on the local municipal and school board races that I had hoped to.
The other major goal of ours has always been to expand messaging, stories and coverage we do far beyond the pages of IowaStartingLine.com. That we accomplished in spades once again this past year. Our videos from contentious town halls were seen by tens of millions of people around the country. Coverage and analysis of Iowa news stories that began on Starting Line ended up in all kinds of national outlets, from Rachel Maddow’s show to the Washington Post. And our framing of Reynolds and other Republicans helped shape state narratives.
A lot of our success on the messaging front was boosted with our partnership with the Iowa Daily Democrat. Our great rotation of regular writers like Rick Smith, Randy Evans and Dick Goodson provided excellent perspective on the real policy problems that Iowa and national Republicans have caused, as well as the real solutions that Democrats are offering up.
As for the year ahead, we have a lot of great things in store. First off is the Iowa Starting Line Podcast, which will be launched next week. It’s been taking a decent amount of preparation work to get it ready, but I know our fans are really going to enjoy the finished product.
I also plan on hosting more events – big and small – around the state. Our annual fundraiser in Des Moines last year drew around 250 people, raised a lot of money and highlighted several rising stars in the party. I’ve got even bigger plans in store for this year’s event, as well as many smaller ones around the state that will help promote younger Democratic leaders. Watch our social media feeds for information about our three-year birthday party two weeks from now.
If things go according to plan, Starting Line will also be looking to expand in 2018. There’s so much more we could accomplish with another full or part-time writer (I also just get stretched too thin handling all the other aspects of Starting Line). I had hoped to raise the funds for more staff by now, but some personal health issues killed my productivity for over a month around September, which screwed up my fundraising plan. But I’ll be back at it this month.
As always, thank you very, very much to all our readers and social media sharers. Here’s looking forward to our best year yet.
by Pat Rynard