Michele's List
Building blocks in the emerging local news ecosystem

Unique monthly visitors


Average page views


Average visits



  • Yes, a single newsletter

E-newsletter subscribers


Facebook followers


Twitter followers


Instagram followers


You Tube



  • $51,000 -$100,000

Primary revenue source(s)

  • Local advertising (including web and e-newsletter ads)

Ad products

  • Traditional Web display advertising sold directly by your organization
  • Traditional Web display advertising sold via an ad network or ad buyer
  • Contextual advertising delivered based on the user or the content (such as Adsense or Outbrain)
  • Video advertising
  • Sponsored content or native advertising
  • Social media services
  • Other(s)

Other products

Display advertising sold in our digital e–Edition, classified ads, Current-Lee listings (calendar of events)


  • No


  • Direct to web/mobile

Total personnel/contributor FTE


Date of most recent publisher update


Last Publisher Update

  • 2019-05-19 22:24:10 UTC

Pen City Current
Pen City Current

News and advertising content for Fort Madison and Lee County, Iowa, and surrounding areas. Website and social media publish 24/7; digital e–Edition publishes Sunday thru Friday mornings by 6am. All content is free. Chuck and Lee Vandenberg are co-founders/co-owners. Revenue: subscription donations, advertising, graphic and web site design.

Who is in charge?

Lee K. Vandenberg

Job title



Fort Madison



Zip code


Year launched


Tax status

  • LLC

Geographic scope

  • Other

Other geographic focus

Lee County, Iowa and surrounding areas

Population of coverage area


Scope of coverage

  • General news or a number of topics that are not necessarily closely related to each other

Primary focus

  • Current news and events

Topics of coverage

  • Crime & justice
  • Education & schools
  • Events in coverage area
  • Government
  • Sports & recreation

Watchdog journalism?

  • Yes, infrequently

Effective engagement practice

Facebook is our most effective means of engaging our audience given the shear number of page likes we have and the interactions we have with our followers. A close second would be Chuck's involvement in the community and his prominence in the community – for almost 3 years, he's been the sole reporter, getting to all government, school board meetings, covering all sports events, volunteering for our local Chamber/Downtown organizations, etc.

Our goal is to be known as the #1 media source in Lee County, Iowa and the surrounding communities by delivering in-depth, unbiased, factual reporting first and free to everyone on virtually every digital platform available.

We measure this by the feedback we receive from the community and the growth in our audience (followers on social media, visitors to our website).

I believe these methods are effective for us because, even though everything we publish is digital, we're still "real" people in our communities that our readers have come to know and trust. People ultimately value relationships and we're able to strengthen those by being involved in our communities and by interacting with our readers.

Revenue challenges

Until very recently, it's been only the two of us trying to grow this business. We have been doing this on our own, with our own money – we didn't seek out any loans, grants, etc. so it's been difficult to expand. We also work 16-18 hour days so it can be exhausting.

In the news

Iowa principal’s alleged ‘hold his banana’ incident results in discipline > https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/07/25/fort-madison-school-principal-todd-dirthhold-banana-incident-discipline-iowa-schools/822995002/

Principal in fruit costume asked female student to ‘hold his banana,’ Iowa complaint alleges > https://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article215631965.html

Principal’s question about his ‘banana’ sparks disciplinary action > https://nypost.com/2018/07/26/principals-question-about-his-banana-sparks-disciplinary-action/

In addition to this story, Pen City Current is regularly cited in area news media reports that share our articles and photos – Radio Keokuk, WGEM, KHQA.