I don't write editorials. Columns make me uneasy.
I've spent the last decade working as a reporter. Hard news is what I plan to continue to do. Fair and balanced are words that mean something to me.
I like to think that's why Congressman Steve King let me into the event he banned other media outlets from attending on election night, but that's not true.
His staff simply didn't know who I was. And they shouldn't.
The last time I saw Steve King in person was when I helped the Carroll newspaper cover his election night party at the Santa Maria winery in Carroll in 2012.
I'm not sure I've ever bylined a story about him.
The congressman has no reason to read the Times Vedette. We're not in “Steve King Country,” as it's called.
Yet, when it was announced at noon Tuesday King was banning media from his election night party I felt compelled to go.
Scrolling through my Twitter feed, I noticed KCCI wasn't sure if there big cameras would be allowed in to broadcast King's party.
The Des Moines Register and Storm Lake Times had already been turned away at the door. He told them: “We are not granting credentials to the Des Moines Register or any other leftist propaganda media outlet with no concern for reporting the truth.”
Then, his staff stopped a Huffington Post reporter from entering the party, apparently telling him to refer to the memo that was sent to the Register.
I wondered how far his media ban would go. Is my rural weekly newspaper part of the “liberal media?”
I was able to track down Jeff King's cell phone number. Jeff is the congressman's son and a paid staffer who handles media credentials. I called him five times from two different phone lines. I left two messages. He never responded.
By the time 5 o'clock rolled around, I wasn't planning to make the nearly 3 hour drive from Panora up to Sioux City. That's a long drive to be turned away at the door, especially when I had election night deadlines to worry about and races in my own coverage area to watch.
Still, I kept thinking about what the editor of the Register, Carol Hunter, said about King's decision to ban Iowa's largest newspaper.
“This decision is unfortunate because it not only shuts out the Des Moines Register reporter, but also the people of Iowa,” she said.
Iowans deserve to have access to one of their highest ranked public officials, especially on Election Day.
My number one job is to provide that access.
I grabbed my camera, my laptop and my phone and drove away. I arrived at the Stoney Creek Inn in Sioux City before polls closed.
The desk staff there was nice enough to point me toward the congressman's party. Down the hall, to the left, through the closed double doors, they said.
I found the closed doors, walked through them, and found myself standing in a small entryway. A door on the left would take me back outside, but King's party was to the right, behind a set of locked doors.
I asked two men sitting at a table whether they were checking in the media. I gave them my name and told them I was with the Guthrie County newspaper.
They checked over a printed list. It was a few pages long. Whether the list contained names of the people who could enter – or couldn't enter – I'm not sure. Either way, I wasn't on it.
Soon, a woman with a gold hotel key card around her neck came to talk to me.
“You're not on the list!” she exclaimed.
I smiled back, unsure whether that was a good thing. I told her I'd called Jeff earlier that day, but he wasn't answering his phone.
She told me to stay put, so I did. She used her golden card to let herself into the party.
She came back a few minutes later. I could go inside.
I asked whether there were any rules. I've been at events before that don't allow live recordings, or don't let you talk to guests.
There were no rules, she said.
Several other media outlets were already there. Six or seven television cameras were set up in the back of the room, and a columnist from the Sioux City Journal was there, too.
Fox News, whose reporters were in the room, was playing on the televisions on both sides of a small stage that was set up. The bar tender was keeping busy. And there were about 70 people sitting at tables that were covered in white table clothes.
The room stayed pretty quiet the whole night while King's Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten, put up a good fight.
King talked to reporters once, going on the 10 p.m. news to say the race was too close to call. He didn't seem particularly upset nor enthusiastic, keeping with the tone of the night.
The only real cheers from the crowd came when Republican Don DeSantis won Florida's gubernatorial race. And when the Iowa gubernatorial race was called for Kim Reynolds.
King's supporters also cheered for a few local candidates, who took the stage to share their appreciation for their own wins that night.
In his own victory speech, King didn't say anything he hasn't said before.
I recorded the speech it and put it on Twitter, where a couple hundred people have seen the video.
I tried talking to a few attendees. A couple of kids were the only ones who would give me their names.
Adults were hesitant, for one reason or another. One man said he'd just moved to Sioux City from Michigan. He thought if he gave his name he might lose his new job.
Another man told me his name was Dick. He didn't seem to trust me enough to give me his last name, despite me asking a few times.
I left the party shortly after King's speech and made it back to my newsroom by 3 a.m. where I gathered local election results and designed that week's paper. I made it to bed around 7 a.m., after working for 22 hours straight.
“Was it worth it?” I asked myself.
Within the last couple of days, that answer has become clear. It was.
It's not just the Register that's had a spat with public officials this week.
Wednesday, President Donald Trump suspended CNN reporter Jim Acosta's White House credentials.
Thursday I was made aware of a Minnesota reporter, Doris Knutson, who was recently yelled at by a city clerk for asking tough questions.
Members of the media are being criticized and turned away. They're – we're – being sworn at and threatened.
The problem is, we're not the enemy. Neither are our elected officials. We're all just part of a system of checks and balances that makes Democracy work.
Now, I can't help Acosta get his credentials back. Or help Knutson get her questions answered. Since I don't generally serve readers in his district, I can't help Steve King get his message out in a way that would be beneficial to everyone.
What I can do, and what I will do, is keep writing the news the way I was taught. Fairly and accurately.
And I'll make sure you aren't left in the dark.