Listen to this article

Remember when you were a kid, and you learned the key conversation technique of “reflecting?”

You show mutual understanding in a conversation by either repeating your conversation partner’s words back to them, or paraphrasing them.  “If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying ….”

Before proceeding, one  “checks in” to make sure they’re picking up the right vibe. The other gives a green, yellow or red light. The goal is green, offered when one knows the other understands.

For some of us, this learning came during arguments with siblings or parents growing up. For others, it didn’t emerge until couples or marriage counseling – or one too many romantic break-ups.

Some missed this altogether — including our president and many of his followers and surrogates..

More than anything, the Trump era is a crisis of communication. Trump has “mainstreamed” a form of communication where you skip the stage of “checking in” for mutual understanding, progress is about how well you distort or evade the other’s point, and red (confrontation) is the goal instead of green.


Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the “border wall” clash.  We’ve been locked in weeks of arguments most notable for Trump’s self-contradictions, revisionist history, distortion of Democratic border security positions, and ever-shifting goalposts.

In the age of Trump, there are no consistent points of reference, sustained beliefs, or (obviously) distinctions between truth or fiction. Definitely no “reflecting.”

“These elements — respect, timeliness, ethics, and truth – go into the mix to make the bricks of common ground, that build the bridge of connection … “

— Christine Hawes

That’s where this itty-bitty, scrappy, grass-roots publication comes in. The Real MainStream’s mission is to help return to clear, timely, relevant and quality communication, starting in how we talk with each other.

This is in addition to our overall mission of promoting an Iowa that does better for everyone, including marginalized groups like women, people of color, the LGBTQ, seniors, people with special needs, and people of nontraditional beliefs..

Our second edition is a great time to lay this out: though a lot of people “get it” after our first issue, a few have asked, “so what ARE you, anyway? Do you just write about a little bit of  everything?”

For reference:

• As every one of our team members will share, The Four-Way Test is at the foundation of this paper. This It’s an ethical construct  for all business, interpersonal, community and ethical decisions, brought to us by The Rotary Club. 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Is it beneficial to all concerned? 4. Will it help build goodwill and better relationships?

Journalists will recognize the Four-Way Test as, essentially, the root of good journalism – with an activist twist.


• This publication is intended to be timely, relevant and respectful to the reader. Our writers and advisers all work to focus on topics that are “of the moment” in culture; present them in a way that connects with readers;  and doesn’t ask you for too much (long reads) or too little (we need to be engaging).

• Our goal is to reach into all of Iowa. Right now, we’re strong in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids; growing fast in the Quad-Cities, Des Moines/Ames, and Waterloo/Cedar Falls; planting a presence in Dubuque and Council Bluffs; and have at least one distribution spot in Orange City and Washington.

• We write about “progressive issues,” an ever-evolving list our team has generated based on how we define progress.  Find a summary soon on our expanded website at – or email to ask for that list.

By taking these little steps with each other, we’re countering the poison Trump has injected into modern-day communication. These elements — respect, timeliness, ethics, and truth – go into the mix to make the bricks of common ground, that build the bridge of connection … to each other, and to those Iowans out there esponsible for travesties like going for Trump in 2016, and putting hate speaker Steve King back in office.

So now you know what we mean when we say, ‘ Join the ‘Stream.

Special note: writers, artists, and helpers with distribution always welcome. As are Letters to the Editor: just send them to!

hawes pic
Christine Hawes