Updated February 2016
I like what Amy Gahran wrote about transparency by journalists at All Things Digital. Update: The All Things Digital team has launched <re/code>. You can see their ethics disclosures here. So I decided to write my own disclosure, telling you probably more than you want to know about me and my background. Some or all of this might affect my blogging about issues or might affect your perceptions of my blogging.
Most of this has already been disclosed here, some of it repeatedly:
I have worked in the news business almost full-time since 1971, the start of my senior year of high school, when I took a sports-writing job with the Evening Sentinel in Shenandoah, Iowa. I’ve been an editor, reporter, writing coach and innovation coach for the Des Moines Register, Kansas City Star and Times, Minot Daily News, Omaha World-Herald, Cedar Rapids Gazette and Digital First Media. I was director of community engagement at TBD, a local online, TV and mobile news operation covering Washington. Here are more extensive accounts of my journalism career, my journalism training career and my teaching career.
Since 1997, I have also been involved in journalism training. I used to train journalists and media executives full-time for the American Press Institute. Now I speak several times a year to seminars, conferences, workshops and webinars relating to journalism and the news business, as well as consulting for media-related clients. You can see a list of current and former clients here.
This blog is mostly about issues of journalism and media innovation. If you want to see my views about those issues, check out the tags and categories on the blog and you’ll see plenty of my opinions. I addressed some of my core beliefs about journalism in 2012.
I am a member of the Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. I have been a member of the American Society of News Editors, Investigative Reporters and Editors and Religion Newswriters Association (I was an RNA Board member). I’m a former president of the North Dakota Associated Press Managing Editors.
While this blog is generally about journalism and media issues, I sometimes address those issues from the perspective of family experience. And occasional blog posts are wholly personal, often related to family matters.
I have been married since 1974 to Mimi Johnson Buttry, a full-time writer and author of the novel Gathering String. I help her in promoting her book, including her Gathering String blog and mentions on my social media accounts. Mimi writes the blog Rubyeyedfox. Mimi grew up an Iowa farm girl. She spent 11 years working for Creighton University and most recently worked for ASNE.
Our oldest son, Mike, is vice president of corporate communications at Capella University in Minneapolis. Mike formerly worked for Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, as press secretary, communication director and chief of staff. When I was a reporter in Omaha, I mostly avoided stories dealing with Hagel, as I have previously explained in the blog. After Hagel retired from the Senate, Mike spent about a year working for Chlopak Leonard Schechter and Associates, a Washington public affairs firm. His clients included the government of Kenya and the American Dental Association. Mike is a graduate of Creighton. He and his wife, Susie Burke, have two daughters, our only grandchildren, Julia and Madeline. Susie is a school teacher whose career has been on pause since Julia’s birth.
Our middle son, Joe, manages staging for events at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. He previously worked for 4Wall Entertainment in Las Vegas, Opera Iowa, Des Moines Metro Opera and the Omaha Community Playhouse. Joe is a graduate of Creighton. Joe and Kim Bagby, who also works in theatrical production, have been married since 2007. They operate Moxie Event Lighting.
Our youngest son, Tom, works for InterAction, a Washington-based non-profit organization. He worked as an aide to Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat. He took the job while I was in Cedar Rapids, and I stopped all involvement with Gazette coverage of Harkin. Tom formerly worked for the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. He has volunteered and worked in Democratic political campaigns. Tom is a graduate of Marquette University.
My father, Luke Buttry, was an Air Force chaplain and American Baptist minister. He died of prostate cancer in 1978. My mother, Harriet Buttry, is a retired American Baptist minister. She lives in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and has Alzheimer’s disease. My older brother, Dan, is a missionary for the American Baptist Churches USA, based in Hamtramck, Mich., and author of several books, including a memoir, Peace Warrior. My younger brother, Don, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Shenandoah, Iowa. One of Don’s sons, Brandon, was killed in Afghanistan in 2012 and I dealt with the media on behalf of the family. My sister, Carol, lives in Bolton, Vt., and is assistant town clerk for the town of Bolton.
I should mention some other members of my extended family. My grandmother, Francena H. Arnold, was a successful novelist, author of Not My Will and other Christian novels. To whatever extent writing ability is genetic, I credit Grandma for whatever writing ability I have. My uncle, Chaplain Frank Arnold, kept a diary during World War II and I have published excerpts on this blog. I won’t list all my in-laws here, but in case anyone sees relevant conflicts or connections, they work (or are retired from) for the Meyocks Group (an Iowa ad agency), St. Francis of Assisi School in West Des Moines, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some issues in my extended family that may influence my perspective (all issues I would address only rarely):
- Peace. Dan works in peacemaking efforts around the world and has written several books about peacemaking. I noted one of his books in a blog post about the photos of the “tank man” of Tiananmen Square.
- Adoption. Don and his wife, Pam, have three biological and 11 adopted children. I have blogged about their oldest daughter, Mandy, and her adopted daughter, Maya, from Haiti (one of four children Mandy and her husband, Matt, have adopted). Dan and his wife, Sharon, also have an adopted son. Two of Mimi’s sisters also have adopted two daughters each.
I completed successful treatment for mantle-cell lymphoma in December 2015 with a stem-cell transplant. This is my third treatment for cancer (following colon cancer surgery in 1999 and microsurgery for basal-cell skin cancer in 2005).
Carol’s son, Patrick, died of leukemia in 2009. He received a bone-marrow transplant during nine months of treatment. I blogged about his illness and death. Patrick’s sister, Kathryn, underwent a stem-cell transplant for myelodysplasia, a blood disorder related to leukemia. Chuck Offenburger, who gave me my first job in journalism and remains a friend, underwent a stem-cell transplant in 2010.
I blogged occasionally about my cancer treatments, some here but mostly on CaringBridge.
Perhaps where I have most varied (recently anyway) from my practice of transparency is with repeated use of my 2013 mug shot. Chemotherapy caused me to lose my hair three times. The regrowth involves stages of a fuzzy scalp and patchy peach-fuzz beard (which I sometimes couldn’t shave while I was in chemo). I don’t think I’ve looked the same any consecutive months the past 15 months, so I mostly just keep using the old photo. I didn’t look too bad at my son’s wedding, so a bearded photo from then is my Facebook profile photo. That’s also out of date, though, because the beard and hair fell out after December’s final round of chemo. I’ll update my photo after I’m finished growing out the hair again, but I’ve mostly avoided taking or appearing in photos (and I usually wear a cap these days anyway).
I am a 1972 graduate of Shenandoah (Iowa) High School and a 1976 graduate of Texas Christian University. I renewed relations with TCU a few years ago, consulting on updating curriculum and student media, leading workshops on campus in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 and being inducted in 2010 into the Hall of Excellence at the Schieffer School of Journalism. I’m planning another visit to TCU in March 2016.
I took some classes at Creighton in the 1990s but did not receive a degree. I was accepted into graduate school to study online for a master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism in 2009, but withdrew from my only course after accepting the TBD job.
I generally don’t write about sports here. My favorite sports team is the New York Yankees (check my Hated Yankees blog if you want to know about Yankees who should be in the Hall of Fame; I don’t write there very often). Other primary sports loyalties: Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, TCU Horned Frogs, Creighton Bluejays, LSU Tigers.
I generally don’t write about politics or social issues here, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Beyond voting, I have no political involvements or activities. I am not involved in any organizations that take partisan positions on political or social issues, beyond advocacy on First Amendment issues. As noted above, I have had sons working for senators in both parties. When I was writing a column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, with those columns appearing on the blog, I occasionally wrote about local or state politics or about politics at all levels, relating to flood relief. I can think of only a couple times I’ve ventured toward national politics here. If I start writing more about politics, I may expand this section. My views tend to be liberal, but I am as likely to get disgusted by liberal politicians than conservatives, because I have greater expectations of the liberals.
— Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) January 2, 2014
Mimi and I like taking day trips around Louisiana. When I travel for work, Mimi frequently comes along and we add some personal travel to the trip. Sometimes, like on our trips to Tofino and Siberia, I have written here about our travels, sometimes addressing media issues, but not always. Mimi and I started a blog in 2012 about our travels on 2 Roads Diverged. I think most of my travel writing now will stay on that blog.
As a youth, I was active in Boy Scouts and earned my Eagle award. I was an adult volunteer when my sons were in Scouts, serving as Cubmaster and in other roles. I generally don’t write about religion on this blog and don’t care to address it in depth here. I have no criminal record and nothing more serious than a few speeding tickets on my driving record. I have been sued a couple of times over traffic accidents, one of them dismissed and one settled by my insurance company. I also enjoy cooking and dining, perhaps a bit too much.
That’s probably way more than you want or need to know about me. But I’d be happy to address anything else you’re curious about. I have argued on multiple occasions that journalists are people, not objects, and that we need to let our humanity into our journalism more honestly. I’ve argued for transparency in journalism. So I thought I’d follow Amy’s advice and AllThingsD’s (and now re/code’s example) and disclose more of who I am.
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