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“My husband carries a photo of me in his wallet tucked behind credit cards, his driver’s license and carefully folded bills,” reporter Andy Kopsa begins her story about sex offender registries, published April 4 at

“I ask him to give it to me as we stand in the reception area of the jail in Tama County, Iowa, in December 2015. He looks ready to ask: Why? Then, he silently pulls it from his wallet.”

What follows is a story about trust — and mistrust — as Kopsa, writing from the Investigative Reporting Workshop, leaves you questioning the effectiveness of sex offender registries. Her story was the most-read 2018 story at and an example of the collaborative work IowaWatch does with other nonprofit news organizations.

The most-read IowaWatch stories covered a variety of topics: the environment, mental, cultural diversity and agriculture. Here they are:

Andy Kopsa

The Boy On The Bus: When Sex Offender Registries Aren’t Enough

April 4, 2018
By Andy Kopsa/Investigative Reporting Workshop

Large Number Of Iowa Public Schools In Range Of Potential Pesticide Spray Drift

Aerial photo taken in March 2018. Credit: Ben Boezinger/Cedar Falls Tiger Hi-Line
June 1, 2018
By Rachel Schmid, Sophia Schillinger, Sabine Martin, Elise Leasure and others in an IowaWatch-Cedar Falls Tiger Hi-Line report

Nine of every 10 public school districts in Iowa have buildings within 2,000 feet of a farm field, making students and teachers susceptible to being exposed to pesticides that drift from the fields when pesticides are sprayed. Yet many school officials interviewed for an IowaWatch/Tiger Hi-Line investigation showed little to no awareness on if or how pesticide drift could affect the staff and students in school buildings.

Iowa’s Mental Health Care Efforts Have Plenty To Heal

Simon Ertzinger, of Cedar Rapids. Credit: Kristin Ertzinger collage shared with IowaWatch
March 28, 2018
By Cindy Hadish

A car crash that left her son with shattered hips, a broken foot, arm and jaw, and internal injuries requiring multiple surgical procedures was a telling point for Kristin Ertzinger. Emergency personnel and hospital staff worked diligently to save her son’s life, but in the years leading up to that crash, and the aftermath, Ertzinger and her son experienced a different story with Iowa’s mental health system.

When Being A Family Farm Doesn’t Mean Squat In The Government’s Eyes

Earl Canfield, at his farm near Dunkerton, Iowa. Credit: Jeff Sigmund/IowaWatch
Sept. 16, 2018
By Molly Hunter

Small family-run farms that raise organically, without genetically modifying crops or by reducing their use of pesticides and antibiotics, are such a small part of the U.S. government’s definition of a family farm that they often are lost in the crowd when it comes to government and industry support. Some of these non-conventional farms lack enough support to obtain some federal farm subsidies that go to larger farms, but also professional network opportunities to grow their business, an IowaWatch investigation revealed.

Work Remains In University of Iowa’s Effort To Support Minorities, Students Say

The percentage of University of Iowa students who are African-American or Latino is growing but students say more still could be done. Credit: Lauren Wade/IowaWatch
Jan. 29, 2018
By Lauren Wade and Maria Curi

Hechinger Report study showed many flagship universities across the country have low enrollment of African-American and Latino students, yet the University of Iowa showed a slight rise in first-time degree-seeking students from those minority populations. Despite the increase, minority students IowaWatch interviewed said the U of I could do more to cultivate a culture of diversity and create a safer learning environment for African-American and Latino students on campus.

IowaWatch and KCRG-TV9 co-hosted an Iowa City public forum on this topic on May 2

Tying Sex Assault Prevention Programs At Iowa Colleges Difficult Without Clear Data

Painting by Becca Schmidt. Credit: Painting (c) Becca Schmidt, Des Moines
April 19, 2018
By Temesha Derby, Britteny Johnson and Laura Wiersema

Despite faculty and staff efforts to educate students about sexual assault prevention and reporting, colleges and universities in Iowa struggle to measure how effective these initiatives are on their campuses. One reason: The inability to decipher whether or not more sexual assaults and harassments are being reported because of increased knowledge of reporting procedures or because more of these instances are happening on campus.

Thanks to support from our readers, IowaWatch continues to produce high-quality journalism like the pieces listed above and is training the next generation of journalists to do this work at a high, ethical level.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan, investigative news service that does investigative and community affairs journalism in collaboration with other media and trains college student journalists.


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