Growing pains

I recently published Issue 21 of the Hiawatha Advocate. I’m finding out what works and what doesn’t.

Issue 21 of the Hiawatha Advocate

Some of my findings are not surprising, but others are more challenging than I thought they would be.

I think the interesting thing I have learned has to do with the people of Hiawatha, their habits, how they think, and how knowing those things will make this newspaper a success.

I started this paper not knowing much about business or how to start a newspaper. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could, not just about the newspaper business, but also about people of Hiawatha.

I thought the residents of Hiawatha would appreciate having a newspaper of their own. I imagined that the businesses would be beating my door down to get ads in my newspaper and I could spend my days working exclusively on the newspaper.

But that has yet to happen.

Since I gotten to know Hiawatha more, I’ve learned there are three groups of people within the community; those who take ownership of their community, who are proud it, and do what they can to make it better. Most of these are the older folks, who are either retired or close to it, and are very community-minded. They love the community newspaper and tell me every chance they get. Unfortunately, they are in the minority.

There are also those who are in their 30s, who have children in the schools and like the idea of a smaller community to raise their family. However, these people (who are in the majority) are so busy they don’t have time to read the newspaper. They like it, they just don’t have time for it.

Then we have the people who live in Hiawatha, maybe because of convenience, maybe just because their homes happen to be in Hiawatha. They don’t think much about their community. They don’t care what goes on here and would just as soon live in Cedar Rapids or Marion. They are usually young and single, and don’t pay attention about what happens at the city council meetings or what businesses are moving in the neighborhood, or even what events are happening over the weekend. They are too busy doing their own thing.

When I started the paper five months ago, I stated that one of the reasons I thought Hiawatha needed its own newspaper because it would help strengthen ties within the community. It’s proving t be tougher than I imagined. I didn’t realize that I would actually have to change the mindset of thousands of people.

So here comes my biggest challenge yet: How do I do that?

Most people in Hiawatha fit in the middle group I mentioned. Busy families with children in school. I have to figure out a way to get them to slow down long enough to want to read the paper.

The older people I have talked to believe that many people in the community are not community-minded, they don’t actively participate in volunteer opportunities, or are members of civic clubs, and they don’t think of Hiawatha as their responsibility. I have written editorials about the subject but if people aren’t reading the paper, how can I get the message to them?

People tell me that everything is going to the web. That’s true; I have a website that I am actively sending people to. But I still think Hiawatha needs a printed edition, too. There are still quite a few people who like reading their news in paper form. And until I have exhausted every effort, I will do my best to change Hiawatha residents’ way of thinking about the newspaper.

Do I believe it’s possible?

Yes, anything is possible. But it depends on many things, especially if I can make enough to cover operating costs. We have already cut from 12 to eight pages and the number of issues we order every week, so we are saving a little money, but it may not be enough.

When I started the paper, I told myself that I would do everything possible to make this newspaper a success. I still believe it can be. I just hope the growing pains subside soon.

Take time to enjoy life

I spent Saturday with two of my grandchildren. The past few years we have taken a

Thomas and Isabelle

day in April to celebrate our birthdays. Thomas turns 7 today, while Isabelle turned 6 on Monday, They are cousins, born almost a year apart. They are also my two oldest grandchildren, and though I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites, they do hold a special place in my heart because of it.

My daughter, Lori, is also getting married the end of May in Las Vegas. We went out Sunday to pick out her dress. And even though these events put me a little bit behind in my newspaper production for the week, I wouldn’t have missed them for anything.

The bride-to-be

I knew I was going to be busy when I started this venture. However, I also don’t want to become a workaholic. I truly love what I do, but my life is more than that. I have kids, grandkids, my other job, my mother, my boyfriend, and my piano…all the thing I love and am not ready to give up. I think all aspects of my life can co-exist peacefully.

This past weekend was hectic and kind of a blur, but I know that when push comes to shove, I can get the job done. And the paper isn’t half-bad. There are a few typos, but every week it gets better.

Can you imagine what my paper would be like if I had more time to do it? I could even be able to go up against the big newspapers….maybe.

My life didn’t stop just because I decided to start this new project, and I never expected it to. I really believe that once I find a balance, I will be able to enjoy all the parts of my life, without stressing out so much.

I’m getting there, but for now, I’ll just take it a day at a time.

Patience and faith just might be the key to my success

My blog writing is suffering. I knew it would. I’m noticing that every minute of every day are accounted for, and even then, its seems like there’s never enough time to do what I want to do. But I knew that would happen, too.

I put my 6th issue out yesterday and even though there are still a few mistakes, every week it keeps getting better and easier to put together.

I tried a new flag, which I don’t really care for, but I’ll get feedback and adjust accordingly.

I have 30 (yes, 30!) subscribers, which is awesome, considering I started with zero.

I also received my first two advertising customers this week. As I have said before, I knew advertising would be my biggest challenge, but I didn’t realize that it would take so long.

People keep telling me to have patience, but for someone who is naturally impulsive and impatient, it’s very tough. (But, patience is my virtue.)

There is also the matter of being a good leader and taking responsibility for my decisions. I have had some experience with that, but this is a little different because if something goes wrong, it’s all on me; I can’t go running to my adviser and ask for help.  I’m realizing that it’s all about having faith in myself and my ability to make the right choices.

I now have two new student writers; one from Kennedy and one from Xavier. Terin, from Kennedy, is on the newspaper staff, but is only a freshman and is not very experienced in writing, but she is willing to try. Cassie, who is from Xavier, is a writer and photographer for the Xpress, and is in for the running of editor next year. She is thinking about going to Drake after she graduates next year. They will both be great assets to my paper.

So I’ll just keep going, getting more subscribers, putting the paper out every week, and figure out a way to get more advertisers. It’s tough when I work all day, because many businesses close at 5.

Yes, it is everything I had dreamed it would be. It’s still hard to see that sometimes because I’m right in the middle of it. But once in a while, I’ll pause and look at what I’ve accomplished.

It’s a great feeling, indeed.

Hiawatha Advocate

Minor setbacks are OK, as long as they don’t turn into major defeats

I suppose it was just a matter of time before someone pointed out my mistakes in the paper.

He started the e-mail with, “I was at my parent’s reading your newspaper…” I should have stopped there, because up to that point, I was elated that someone was even reading my newspaper.

But, no, I kept on reading.

The entire page was filled with comments about all the typos I made in my last issue.

Ouch.

And even though he said, “I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings,” it did. For a minute.

I knew I had made a few mistakes in the last issue, but I didn’t realize I had made soooo many. So I sent him back an e-mail thanking him for taking the time to read the paper and for pointing out the typos. I found myself explaining why I didn’t have an editor and realized that I was just making excuses.

But it reminded me of all the times that I had made mistakes at school and just wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I swallowed my pride and listened to the advice and feedback that was being offered. And then I did what I was supposed to, to make the next issue even better.

It’s hard to put out a perfect paper. And though I may come close, I probably never will.

I think he was surprised that I responded so quickly because he e-mailed back and said that he was reluctant to send the e-mail because he wasn’t sure how I would take the feedback.

Then he ended his e-mail with, “I am a professor of education.”

That made me feel better, because then I realized that most people probably wouldn’t even have bothered sending me the e-mail. Though it wasn’t a pleasant lesson to learn, I know it will help me be a better journalist.

And I do want to be a better journalist. All I can do is be open to the suggestions that are offered to me.

Hiawatha Advocate Online

This week’s headlines

I had the opportunity to write many good articles for my third issue. One was

Took some time off to take the grandkids to the park Saturday. My grandson Lennox discovered swinging and cried when I took him home.

about a Boy Scout Troop, whose members have disabilities, a Hiawatha business, whose owner is also a founder of an animal rescue in a neighboring community, and the update on the Hiawatha city council happenings.

There were many others, but those are the big ones. And I finally have a few new writers. Granted, two of them are my daughters, but two others are people who just want to write for me.

My first two issues weren’t bad, but they weren’t the best, either. Someone told me, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” but I have to be a little bit. How can I expect to do improve if I’m OK with being mediocre?

And I am getting better. My third issue was actually 15 minutes early, compared to last week’s hour late. I also received some great feedback that I used in the latest issue.

But I had to improvise a little. I was only going to do 8 pages, and found that I did have enough material for almost 12. Not enough sports or school news, so what do I do?

The material I had was mismatched and so I could have gone back down to 8 and stockpiled the others, or go for the 12. I had to make a decision, so I went for the 12. I wanted to put in an engagement and wouldn’t have been able to include two stories I had to get in. But it doesn’t matter what the reason is. I believe that I made the right choice.

And it will get easier to make those choices as I go, but it’s nice to know that I can go with 8 pages if I need to.

I’m definitely learning a lot, not just about how to put together a newspaper, but about business, and people, how they are affected by what I write, and how I can have an impact on the world around me.

Issue four is coming right along, and with spring coming next week and summer not far behind, I may just have to go to 16 pages.

All in a daze work

Even when I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and was the editor in chief of the Mount Mercy Times, I wasn’t as tired as I am right now.

Granddaughter Lily reads the Hiawatha Advocate at our open house Feb. 29. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

I’m not complaining, just making an observation.

But I am tired. Going into my third issue, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t do it all on my own. Until I can hire some writers, editors, photographers, and delivery people (With the state of the economy, you would think it’d be easy!) I’m going to adjust the size of the paper a little so it can become manageable; for the time-being, anyway.

The local businesses will come around, I’m sure of it. It may take them a while to make sure I’ll be staying in business, but I’m confident that they’ll be knocking on my door soon.

The subscribers will come, too. I just have to find a better way to get the word out, and convince the community that they need the paper to stay up to date with what’s happening in Hiawatha.

Until that actually happens, I will just have to keep plugging away, and realize that the craziness probably won’t last forever. Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Sigh.  I think I just need to get more sleep.

I don’t remember much of the past two weeks. I’ve spent most of it just trying to get my bearings and find a balance. But I know someday I’ll look back at all the hard work that’s gone into this…

…and smile.

What happens when your dreams come true? (you live happily ever after)

I’ve always loved that line from “Willy Wonka.” (The orignal movie with Gene Wilder, not the crazy one with Johnny Depp.)

Hiawatha Advocate Front Page

I wondered how I would feel, what it would be like at this moment.

We learn about dreams when we’re little, listening to the fairy-tales of maidens and princes and happily-ever-afters. As we grow, we find that life isn’t all that was promised to us and we begin the task of unraveling those illusions and putting them back in the order in which we see fit.

I did that.

Life wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be when I found myself a single mother of four. I learned about life through their eyes, putting my life on hold while I tried to mold the minds of my children and teach them values that I thought were important.

When the nest emptied, I found myself thinking about what I wanted to with the rest of my life.

I knew I wanted to do something different, something totally unexpected.

So I started a Bucket List. Some items I had on it included auditioning for a movie (“The Final Season” auditions were that year). Another was getting a tattoo (ouch) and going back to college and actually getting a degree. I also learned to ski how to play the piano. And I traveled. No place fancy, but I wanted to see  the country.

I didn’t really have a dream of owning a newspaper until I was half way through college. My real dream was to become a respected journalist and to be able to use my writing for good.

I’ve done that. I may not be the most accomplished writer, but I know that my heart is in everything I write. (Well, most everything).

And I love what I do. How lucky am I, to be able to do what I love? I probably have said it before, but I’m still amazed that my life turned out the way it did. It has been said that happiness is not a destination. but a form of traveling.

I heard a parable one time about a woman who happened to find favor in Buddha’s eyes. He granted one wish, that was all, and she needed to think wisely about that wish. She took her time, asked people what they thought she should wish for. They told her, “Gold! Wish for Gold!” They also told her to wish for a rich husband and other things that would make her life easier. But when it was time to make her wish, she didn’t know what to wish for. So she asked Buddha what she should wish for. “If I were you, I would wish for contentment, so that no matter what happened to you, you will always be happy.” And that’s what she did. And she lived happily ever after.

And so, that’s the attitude I take. Come what may…I am content.