Iowa’s Political Talk Shows Leave Out Key Voices and Perspective


Latino, Native, Asian and African American Iowans Have Been Left Off Iowa Public Television’s ‘Iowa Press’ in 2019

With caucus season underway, Iowa’s political talk shows have failed to give voice to the diverse perspectives in our state, according to an analysis released today by the advocacy group Progress Iowa. According to data released, white men are given twice the airtime across episodes than all women of any race and approximately 15% of guests represent all of our communities of color.

Progress Iowa monitored guest appearances on political talk shows on television and radio in the Des Moines media market and on statewide broadcasts starting in January of 2019. In total there were 390 guests in 130 shows on Iowa Press (Iowa Public Television), The Insiders (WHO Channel 13), Close Up (KCCI Channel 8), This Week in Iowa (WOI Channel 5), Heartland Politics (KBUR News Radio), The Steele Report (KWWL Channel 7) and River to River episodes featuring political and legislative guests (Iowa Public Radio).

Among those 390 guests and 130 shows, Progress Iowa’s analysis discovered the following key findings:

  • Less than 15.4% of guests represented communities of color, while 84.6% of guests were white
  • White men represented 52% of guests with 203 appearances, and were three times more likely to appear than any person of color (60 appearances)
  • Only one episode featured a woman of color as the only guest; there were forty two episodes featuring white men as the only guests
  • Just 39% of all guests were women
  • White men were given twice the airtime as often as all women of any race (42 solo appearances compared to 20)

Additionally, the statewide program Iowa Press has not had any Latino, Native, Asian, or African American guests in 2019, and in 2018 only two non-white guests were on the show, State Representative Ras Smith, and Iowa Secretary of State candidate Deidre DeJear (former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn appeared during a gubernatorial debate).

“If we aren’t intentional in ensuring that we seek to include a diverse range of individuals on our main media platforms, we can become an accomplice in projecting a lack of importance,” said Representative Smith. “I’ve been on the Steele report, Iowa Press and River to River in the last year. I’m grateful for the opportunity but would like to be less of an exception and more of the rule.“

“We know that people trust their local news more than other sources to tell them what they need to know, and one way that local news outlets can live up to the trust they’ve earned is by actively prioritizing representation on-air and fully embodying the communities they serve,” said Pam Vogel, deputy editorial director and local news expert at Media Matters for America. “I hope that this study will encourage local news outlets in Iowa and across the country to think critically about whose voices are represented in political commentary and to take solid measures to improve the conversation for all viewers.

“A representation of diverse voices is always important, especially as Iowa plays a critical role in deciding who will be the next President,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “And speaking as a straight white man, we’ve frankly heard enough from straight white men. It’s past time for all of us to do better and to lift up the voices of underrepresented communities.”

Click here to view the guests of each program by date, along with a summary of the data analyzed by Progress Iowa.

Progress Iowa will continue to monitor these and additional programs during 2019, and release updated figures each quarter.

Progress Iowa is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization with a network of more than 75,000 progressives. Year-round, Progress Iowa advocates for a stronger middle class, first-class public education, and fairness for all Iowans under the law.

IOWA MEDIA MONITOR – 2019 Guest Demographics


  • 84.6% of guests were white
  • 52.1% of guests were white men
  • 60.8% of guests were men
  • 39.2% of guests were women
  • 40% of episodes featured only male guests (52)
  • 32.3% of episodes featured only white male guests (42)
  • 15.3% of episodes featured only female guests (20)
  • 0.7% of episodes featured only guests who were women of color (1)