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Gilbert Cranberg

Gilbert Cranberg is George H. Gallup Professor of Journalism Emeritus, the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He was associated for 33 years with The Des Moines Register and Tribune where he  was editor of the editorial pages of both papers.

Cranberg taught for 18 years at the University of Iowa's journalism school. He co-authored "Libel Law and the Press: Myth and Reality," (The Free Press) whose authors won the 1987 Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Professional Journalists for research in journalism. Another book, "Taking Stock: Journalism and the Publicly Traded Newspaper Company," (Iowa State Press), was published June 2001.

He served in the infantry in the Pacific during World War II. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University (1949) and
received a master's degree in social science from Drake University (1956). He was for six years an at-large member of the National Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was a Fellow of the World Policy Institute and of the Open Society Institute.

Cranberg served as chairman of the Professional Standards Committee of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and as a director of that organization. He was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and of its Ethics and Values Committee. He is a life member of the National Conference of  Editorial Writers for having "achieved exceptional distinction in the profession." He has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Journalism Quarterly, Columbia Journalism Review, American Journalism Review, Nieman Reports,  American Bar Association Journal and Iowa Law Review.

He now blogs at The Truth Is!



Will the reasons for the Iraq war ever be known?
ASK THIS | July 14, 2012
Tersely, Gil Cranberg links the voluminous findings in the Penn State probe into the Sandusky sex scandal to the failure – and circumscription – of a government inquiry into the possibly illegal invasion of Iraq, and the very costly war there.

The Wall St. Journal, Karl Rove, and true-but-false journalism
COMMENTARY | March 26, 2012
Karl Rove, no surprise, twisted a statement of Bill Clinton's so badly in a Wall Street Journal column that the paper issued ‘a clarification.’ But as Gil Cranberg points out, calling something a clarification doesn’t make it one.

Should Fluke sue Limbaugh for defamation?
COMMENTARY | March 04, 2012
Gil Cranberg, an expert on libel law and no fan of defamation suits, would give the go-ahead. He says Limbaugh, by attacking the Georgetown Law student three days in a row, “intended to damage her and her reputation" and that "his actions were aggravated and egregious.”

Why pay attention to Iowa at all? Iowans don't.
ASK THIS | January 06, 2012
With the entire country watching (or at least the entire news media), fewer than 20 percent of Iowa Republicans showed up to vote on Jan. 3. With such a scant turnout, why should anyone pay attention to the results? And, asks Gilbert Cranberg, shouldn’t party leaders consider dropping Iowa from the lead-off spot?

Strentz & Cranberg on whether to boycott Rick Perry
COMMENTARY | December 10, 2011
Two longtime Iowa journalists, one a professor, the other an editorial page editor, in a brief colloquy on whether Rick Perry should pay a price – no editorial board meeting – because of some outrageous remarks.

FSU: For Sale University?
COMMENTARY | May 22, 2011
The Charles Koch Foundation added strings to an endowment at Florida State University, asking for and getting veto power on the hiring of teachers. That sounds like typical Koch brothers behavior. But why did the university accede?

Turning the Iowa GOP caucuses into an extremism limbo
COMMENTARY | January 18, 2011
Iowa's results can be significant in a presidential race; Obama’s showing in 2008 is proof of that. But next year only the GOP caucuses will be relevant -- and the GOP in Iowa these days is controlled by right-wing religious extremists. How far will candidates bend to get their approval?

No more meals, only coffee comes with the AARP spiel
COMMENTARY | December 02, 2010
Gilbert Cranberg wasn't able to find out how much AARP gets for promoting UnitedHealthCare to older people. AARP directed him to the company's tax return, and that wasn't helpful either, except to show that in 2009, AARP reported royalty income of $656,974,323 from all sources.

These orthopedists are a step ahead of Obama
COMMENTARY | March 08, 2009
A Des Moines orthopedic practice has cut off Medicare Advantage insurers. Gil Cranberg thinks they’ve got the right idea—and wants reporters and editorial writers to start paying attention as Obama tries to end subsidies that have been draining the traditional Medicare program.

An economic slowdown is no time to shrink the news
COMMENTARY | November 13, 2008
Cranberg and Bezanson write that “the need for information doesn’t contract in step with the economy. The reverse is true; troubled times demand more skilled journalism, more interviews, more probing, bigger newsholes.” Possibly, they suggest, foundations that aren’t ordinarily interested in the press will reconsider their priorities.

Sen. Grassley knows a good story when he sees it
COMMENTARY | November 10, 2008
AARP, asked by the Iowa senator to explain its profits from insurance plans it touts, suspends marketing of one of them. Gil Cranberg laments that the press has pretty much ignored this important story—and points out that it’s not too late for reporters and editors to get in on it.

Iowa Democrats need to modify their caucus system
COMMENTARY | June 07, 2008
The press has been a passive bystander despite serious, undemocratic flaws. This year was no exception. Says Gil Cranberg: "The press should quit being cheerleaders for the seemingly grassroots character of Iowa’s caucuses and report forthrightly about their significant deficiencies."

When Justices play the stock market
COMMENTARY | May 16, 2008
Why don't Supreme Court justices explain their recusals – and not leave it up to reporters to guess?

What’s to stop a new kind of 'family-owned' newspaper?
COMMENTARY | May 13, 2008
A crime family, that is. It may sound far-fetched but there's nothing preventing it. Freedom of the press means freedom to sell to anyone.

Don't bother them with news stories
COMMENTARY | December 26, 2007
Reporters in Iowa may be busy with the caucuses but they could have found time to cover a really questionable extortion case against a gay Democratic state senator.

AARP and the privatization of Medicare
ASK THIS | November 02, 2007
Medicare Advantage plans are heavily subsidized, private plans that are luring older citizens away from Medicare. AARP is both criticizing this practice and taking part in it at the same time. What’s AARP up to here, and why aren’t news organizations doing a better job in reporting the drain on Medicare?

Can the media and the bar get too close for ethical comfort?
COMMENTARY | October 30, 2007
Dan Rather’s suit against CBS is unusual in that his law firm is one of more than 200 that have agreed not to sue news media groups or individuals for libel. Such a policy, write Randall Bezanson and Gilbert Cranberg, is highly questionable. Rather’s lawyers got around it by not couching the suit in terms of libel. But what about the policy itself?

No room for letters to the editor but plenty of room for graphics
COMMENTARY | August 08, 2007
Gil Cranberg says space is precious and it’s wrong for the Times, of all newspapers, to be squandering it on unnecessary, marginal illustrations, especially now that the paper has shrunk.

What do Lance Armstrong and the Jewish World Service have in common?
COMMENTARY | August 01, 2007
It’s not just the candidates that descend on Iowa, so do interest groups, some of which don’t often get a chance to buttonhole politicians. (One in an occasional series on the Iowa caucuses)

Craziness in Ames is part of the Iowa caucuses
COMMENTARY | July 25, 2007
In one event—the GOP straw poll in Ames, coming up in August—voters have to pay $35 to take part. But not to worry, the candidates often foot the bill. And for sure, the press will cover it.

What Nelson Poynter can teach the Bancrofts
COMMENTARY | June 14, 2007
Shouldn’t the standards of news media ownership, as spelled out by Poynter in 1947, apply today? For starters, those standards include looking at a media property as a sacred trust and a great privilege.

By dropping out, McCain, Giuliani bring a little sanity to Iowa 'straw poll'
COMMENTARY | June 07, 2007
Pity the poor pollsters working in Iowa, and analysts trying to make sense of their numbers. Romney leads in one Iowa poll but is third in another; Clinton leads in one and is last in another.

The Iowa caucuses: Hope and hokum in the heartland
COMMENTARY | June 07, 2007
It’s crisis time: Millions may pick their presidential preferences very early next year--before the Iowa caucuses and thus without the wisdom of a handful of Iowans to guide them. Will the media be able to handle that?

As Medicare goes private, the press just stands by
COMMENTARY | May 22, 2007
The government sounds like the voice of the insurance industry as it hucksters older Americans into joining ‘Medicare Advantage,’ a means of unraveling the popular, effective program. Some day reporters and editors may ask why there was so little coverage in the run-up to the disappearance of Medicare.

What's at stake in the Times's 2-tier stock battle
COMMENTARY | April 26, 2007
Bezanson and Cranberg say newspapers miscalculated in going public but that relinquishing family voting control, as big investors want, would be bad for readers and for the fabric of democracy.

Memo to Sam Zell: Keep in mind that your main product is news
COMMENTARY | April 03, 2007
Gilbert Cranberg and Randall Bezanson offer a reminder to the billionaire who has just bought into the Tribune Corp. that newspapers are unlike other businesses.

Cranberg wants a serious probe of why the press failed in its pre-war reporting
ASK THIS | February 07, 2007
Veteran Iowa editor wants outsiders, not people in the news industry, to examine why the press is reluctant to challenge authority at times when the country most needs a vigorous, questioning fourth estate.

The closer the election, the lower the price of gas
ASK THIS | September 19, 2006
Gil Cranberg says this correlation should galvanize the press. He wants to know, among other things, whether prices are dropping in countries that don’t have upcoming elections.

Staff cuts may make owners vulnerable in libel cases
COMMENTARY | September 15, 2006
What will the courts say when litigants argue that news organization chieftains got rid of experienced staffers and put in place a rawer, under-trained newsroom, knowingly making the product more error-prone?

Talking about appeasement, let's go back to 1990
COMMENTARY | September 11, 2006
Gil Cranberg says, “The press could do worse than to remind Americans that our stumbles in Iraq didn’t just begin with the 2003 invasion but trace back more than a decade earlier to misguided moves to mollify and, yes, appease Saddam.”

Cranberg would penalize Bush for taunting
COMMENTARY | August 30, 2006
There’s no ‘Democrat’ party; the next time the president uses that terminology why doesn’t a reporter call him on it?

Oversized graphics: Invasion of the space snatchers
COMMENTARY | August 17, 2006
Think huge, out-of-proportion art dresses up newspaper pages? Think people don’t notice it or that it draws readers to stories? Gil Cranberg notices it, and he’s got a thing or two to say about it.

Some might consider the Iowa GOP platform a little extreme
COMMENTARY | August 14, 2006
Corporal punishment, no IRS and no income tax, teacher-led school prayer, concealed weapons, creationism. Should a group with a platform like that have a key role in picking presidential candidates?

Proposed shield law comes close to government licensing of reporters
COMMENTARY | August 08, 2006
‘Free flow’ Act defines journalists as those who get paid by news organizations to help produce news or information. Gil Cranberg has a problem with that.

A special Pulitzer for Knight Ridder's pre-war coverage?
SHOWCASE | July 20, 2006
Gilbert Cranberg says the DC bureau and Landay, Strobel, Walcott deserve high honors for their reports challenging the Bush administration during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq.

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