By Erin Campbell
Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or a historic anniversary, 75 years is a major milestone. At the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC), January 1948 was important because it marked the first month we published a statewide newspaper for member-consumers, titled “IRECA News.” Sharing news and happenings from when IAEC was known as the Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the monthly tabloid quickly became a trusted and valuable source for information as more rural Iowa homes and businesses were receiving electricity through rural electric cooperatives.
An editorial in the first issue exactly 75 years ago reads:
“The editors will do everything their knowledge and zeal will allow to make the publication foremost in its field. They hope to present material which will so inform members they will be inspired to contact others who ought to unite with us and to convince outside readers the cooperative system merits their wholehearted support.”
Remaining steadfast in our mission
While the name and format of our monthly statewide publication have changed a few times over the decades, our commitment to our readers has not. We remain faithful to the legacy of providing valuable information to Iowa’s electric cooperative member-consumers about co-ops, rural economic development, energy efficiency, industry trends and electric safety. We also make the magazine more enjoyable by including recipes, contests and reader-submitted cover photos.
And in a world shifting to digital platforms, we prefer to mail a printed magazine each month because it breaks through the digital noise and gets read. According to a scientifically valid readership survey we conducted in 2020, 87% of those who receive our magazine take time to read it each month. In fact, 44% of those who receive this magazine spend 10 minutes or more reading our 16 pages of content each month! We simply can’t get that kind of engagement in a digital format.
But we do embrace digital technology when it makes strategic sense. A few years ago, we scanned every hard copy of the statewide publication in our central files and digitized the pages of each monthly issue to preserve our archive for generations to come. I enjoy history and learning about the past in order to guide our future, so I am grateful for the ability to access and search 900 monthly issues with the click of a mouse.
Energy topics stay at the forefront
Reading through our archive, I have seen many topics over the decades that are cycling back in the news today, including stories on nuclear technology, supply chain concerns and generating enough electricity to meet the growing electric demand of consumers. We’ll look back on some of those headlines throughout the year as we celebrate our diamond anniversary.
I like to think that those first editors would be proud of where we stand 75 years later, carrying the torch they ignited so long ago. May this monthly publication continue to provide useful information to member-consumers of Iowa’s electric cooperatives for another 75 years! Our cooperative system indeed merits your wholehearted support.
Erin Campbell is the director of communications for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.