Lee Rood has been the Reader’s Watchdog at the Des Moines Register since 2012. A longtime investigative reporter and editor, she created the unique column to help readers find answers and accountability from government, businesses and nonprofits.
After nearly a decade in that post, she’s known across the state of Iowa as a voice for Iowans, writing about the serious problems that affect their lives.
She’s exposed individuals who have preyed on vulnerable populations or wronged consumers and uncovered wasted tax dollars and excessive government spending. Her work has led to changes in state and federal law, triggered court action and arrests, and prompted good deeds and community action by readers moved by her columns.
Rood’s work as a problem-solver and whistleblower has been so successful in achieving results and building loyal readership, her column has been replicated at other Gannett sites across the country.
The daughter of a sociologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Rood spent her childhood school years in Omaha, Neb., and her summers in Washington, D.C. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and attended graduate school in communications at Drake University.
After leading a team of reporters who covered crime, government and politics at the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota, she moved to Iowa in 1997 to become an assistant metro editor at the Register. She became an investigative reporter in 2004 and served as the Register’s projects-investigations editor for eight years.
As a reporter, Rood’s covered any number of disasters, from extensive flooding to devasting tornadoes to plane crashes. She’s trailed numerous presidential candidates during the Iowa caucuses and broken some of the biggest stories to affect state government in the past quarter-century.
One of her greatest gifts has been identifying trends and issues emerging out of both rural and urban Iowa. Register Editor Carol Hunter describes Rood as a reporter with an “unrelenting knack for getting the story.”
A dedicated traveler, Rood has returned to the same Cretan village in Greece annually for 20 years. She’s been to 30 countries, 48 states, every county in Iowa, and walked every neighborhood in Des Moines.
A mother of two grown daughters, she’s an avid gardener, reader, and lover of live music. She lives in Des Moines with her dog, Molly.
- Digging Deep: When you know you’ve got something worth investigating.
- What’s Investigative Journalism, anyway? Why audience matters in watchdog writing.