In a mass defection, T.J. Juskiewicz, RAGBRAI’s director and his entire staff, resigned from The Des Moines Register on Tuesday over the newspaper’s handling of the Carson King story.
RAGBRAI which stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa started in 1973 and became the oldest, longest, and largest recreational bike touring event in the world that sees thousands of bikers attempt to ride across the state of Iowa.
What’s interesting is that in his announcement, Juskiewicz notes that what The Des Moines Register did to Carson King wasn’t the issue that led to the resignations, but the fact the newspaper censored him from talking about it.
Here’s his full announcement below:
Dear RAGBRAI Nation –
This is a bittersweet day for me and my team. Today, your RAGBRAI Director for the past 16 years and the entire RAGBRAI staff has resigned.
RAGBRAI’s parent companies (Des Moines Register & Gannett/USA Today) claim “we will uphold First Amendment principles,” but they refused to offer me that same opportunity to openly speak to the RAGBRAI Nation and answer the hundreds of passionate questions asked about the future of RAGBRAI following the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story.
I have always been totally transparent with the RAGBRAI Nation and have earned their trust since my first day in 2003. In these past few weeks, my efforts to communicate with our loyal riders has been consistently blocked as it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment. There are hundreds of questions that have been left unanswered in an attempt to save face for the Register, without regard to how it affects RAGBRAI.
I was informed, ‘Leadership and our PR professionals are in agreement that we don’t want to issue any more public statements on this matter – it is largely dying down publicly, and they see no advantage to re-igniting it at this point.” And then added, “glad to work with you on talking points for interviews regarding RAGBRAI if the Carson King situation comes up.”
So, after 16 great years of service, I was effectively hushed and offered talking points to deal with a mess that had nothing to do with RAGBRAI.
I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register. If we balked this time, I couldn’t image any future thoughts of making decisions in the best interest of YOU the riders and the great state of Iowa.
So, the entire RAGBRAI staff resigned today.
I promised my mentor Jim (Greenie) Green that I would maintain this great ride across Iowa. I also made that pledge to the late wagon master Don Benson and 89-year-old co-founder John Karras.
You will see this team that just resigned resurface in the near future so stay tuned!
Thank you for trusting us with the GREAT RIDE!
The Des Moines Register announced that RAGBRAI will continue despite the staff resignations. The next bike ride is scheduled July 19-25, 2020. The RAGBRAI staff that resigned launched a new bike ride, Iowa’s Ride, that will take place on the same week.
What a mess. With competition the same week by experienced professionals and the blowback the Register received from the Carson King debacle I don’t see how RAGBRAI won’t be negatively impacted by this.
A newspaper that censors it’s own staff and has to hire an outside PR firm to spin the mess it created, amazing.