Being bossy is not my style

I can now say that I have a staff of four. Well, technically, they’re not my employees, but they are willing to help me out until I get the newspaper on its feet. Then I may think about hiring them for real.

I’ve been the boss before, but I’ve been fortunate. My days at the Mount Mercy Times were more of a team effort.  I think I may have had to throw my weight around only a few times, and even then, the casualties were minor.

But that’s just not my style. I know I’ll have to get gruff once in a while, especially when it will be my own newspaper at stake, but I don’t think I have to be a you-know-what to get my point across.

Still, I can’t let them walk all over me either.

Is it possible to be a kind and understanding boss, but still get the respect that is essential to make the business run smoothly?

That might be something I have to work at. Let’s face it; everyone is capable of having their dark side emerge from time to time. It just depends on if you allow it. Believe me, I have had some bosses who didn’t care if they hurt the feelings of others, and some I wondered of it actually made them feel good to do it.

I definitely won’t be like that, but I have a feeling that I won’t always be the nice person I am 99% of the time. I think I  will do anything to see this newspaper get on its feet and if that means firing someone to do that, I will.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, but it might be necessary. I hope not, but it’s always a possibility, and I’m just being realistic.

But maybe I’m worried about nothing, and everyone will do what I say when I say it and I won’t have someone coming up to me deadline day and say they didn’t get a story written or a picture taken.

Yeah, right.

A writer writes-Week 22

I am celebrating a few things today. My daughter’s twins are doing well and are at home after being born a week ago. I am in Week 21 of my quest to start a newspaper. And I am writing my 100th blog.

Me, holding the twins, Gianna and Natalie

I have been contemplating what I would write for this special blog, a feat that seemed unimaginable when I began writing my blog in July 2010. My advisor suggested that if I wanted to become a good journalist, I should start a blog. “Practice writing; it doesn’t matter what, just write,” he told me.

He also said that blogging and online writing was the direction that journalism was going in and that all journalists need to blog.

Well, I have never done anything just because everyone else is doing it. In fact, I was always one who was a bit reluctant to follow the crowd. But if starting a blog would help me become a better writer, I was willing to try.

I searched back through my 99 blogs and found the first one I ever wrote. “Note to Self” was written on July 26, 2010. I had written this as a personal story but decided to use it as my first blog. I had  read a book about celebrities who wrote stories about what they would tell their younger selves if they could. I was inspired by the thought of it and decided to write one of my own.

I found out a lot about myself that I wasn’t aware of.

“…should I tell her that happiness could not be found in another person? Or that she needed to look inside herself to find the answers she was looking for?

Or maybe I would tell her that college really was that important.  Should I also tell her that if she decides to skip school and go straight to starting a family it won’t turn out the way she expected?  That fairytales don’t really exist?  Maybe I would mention that life gets really hard for a while and there are times she may want to throw in the towel, but she shouldn’t give up; she would come through it with a better understanding of how precious life is.

But  maybe I won’t tell her those things after all.  Maybe I’ll write a letter that tells her how proud I am of her for never giving up.  How sorry I am that she had to go through so much pain and heartache, but life does get better.  I will tell her that I am glad she never lost sight of her dreams, even though they seemed out of reach.  I will tell her that she has made me who I am today; a strong, independent and courageous woman.”

As I write my 100th blog, I realize how important writing is for a writer.  It was hard getting into the habit of writing a blog at first, but now I look forward to writing it.  Sometimes I only have time to write one blog a week, but I generally try for two. I make up for it by writing articles for the Mount Mercy Times or for my own website, the Hiawatha Advocate.

The Hiawatha Advocate

A colleague of mine asked for advice because she had writer’s block. “It’s so frustrating because I don’t know how to start it,” she said.

I told her, “Just start at the beginning.”

There are times when I, too, stare at the computer screen, hoping that something will pop into my head. I wrack my brain trying to figure out where to start but I’m at a loss. But as soon as I begin typing, anything, the story just seems to come. My journalistic instincts take over and I soon find myself writing the story with no problem.  I know there are some things I still  need to work on, but I know this is what I was born to do.

Week 21 has me thinking about how much writing has become a part of my life, and by practicing everyday, I have definitely become a better writer.

My advisor was right. If you want to become a good journalist, you have to practice writing. And I have….a lot.

Slow but sure-The Hiawatha Advocate (week 2)

Things are going as well as I expected for the first week of my online newspaper. I have my first story online, some pictures, and I am working on a format and creating a flag that will draw readers and say, “Read Me!”

Well, it isn’t much, but it is something, and I think this is the way I’m supposed to do it. The best advice I ever recieved about starting my own newspaper was by Lori Linder, former owner of the Solon Economist and North Liberty Leader who said, “Make sure everything is ready before you begin. Once you start, there’s no going back.”

Photo by Joe Sheller

So maybe the fear of failure is keeping me in check, but the thing that I’m thinking most about, is that I want to be ready. This online mini-newspaper is just a precursor for bigger and better things. I really do feel that this is the way it’s supposed to be. When I put my first issue out on Feb. 29, 2012, I will be ready. The hard part is waiting until that time and not rush it. Sticking with the original plan is crucial.

This summer will also be a learning experience. (Break? What break?) Getting out and meeting the community is something I also planned on doing this summer. Working on my website ( will also prepare me for my final term at Mount Mercy University as web editor for the Mount Mercy Times. I was lucky to get in on the final production of the Times’ web edition ( of the graduation festivities at Mount Mercy. I learned a lot about the website process in my hands-on experience, and know it will benefit me immensely.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to do much relaxing this summer, and I’m OK with that. It’s getting me to a place that I once thought was impossible, and everything I do, I can learn from. So I’ll keep taking that next step forward, trust my instincts, and never pass up the opportunity to experience life, even if I’m tired or not feeling up to it. I know I’ll thank myself later.

The (Mount Mercy) Times marches on

With only two issues left for the Mount Mercy Times this school year, it’s kind of fun to look back and see how far we’ve come.

Issue 18 of the Times

But being editor in chief of a college paper wasn’t what I thought it would be; it was much, much more. What I learned goes beyond the mere production of the paper. I found out what my limitations are, what I’m willing to put up with, and just how far I can be stretched.

All those stressful deadlines, the crazy Mondays, and the tearful frustrations; they were not in vain.  They taught me that I am human. No matter how hard I work to produce a perfect paper, it’s not going to happen. I have learned that you can do all the steps correctly but something is going to slip by you.  All I can do is train myself to do it right the first time, then I won’t have to worry about those silly mistakes sneaking through.

After each issue I have asked myself, how can I do better next time? What do I need to do different? What did I learn from this?

The first few issues that we produced were a bit rough.  I wasn’t too hard on myself because I knew that I was just starting out and I was learning.  But as we produced more issues, I was harder on myself because I knew they were silly mistakes and that we could do better.

But I suddenly found myself in a place that I didn’t want to be. I began expecting too much from myself and from my staff. I forgot that we are still college students, and we all had a lot of other things going on.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to put out a perfect paper, but “perfect” in the newspaper world is a myth. It’s never going to happen. What I can do is strive for excellence, something that is attainable, unlike perfection.

My year with the Times has been quite an adventure, another chapter in my life. I have written before about starting my own newspaper next year and the plans are coming along, slowly but surely. What I have learned as editor in chief is invaluable to me, something I couldn’t have possibly learned in a classroom. This is about as real as it gets.

My next adventure comes in the form of web editor for the Mount Mercy Times next year, another stepping-stone toward my goal. It will be good for me, and the Times, as well. I see the web dominating the media world, and something we need to keep up with.

I have bittersweet thoughts of moving on. I enjoyed my time as editor in chief. My education wasn’t just about the production cycle of a newspaper, but myself, as well. I’m even going to miss being able to call the shots, though, in reality, it wasn’t just me.

But this is just a lull in the excitement. I probably should enjoy it before the craziness starts next year with my own paper, The Hiawatha Advocate. I have a feeling that, though this is what I’ve wanted my whole life, it’s going to take up much more time than the Times ever did.

Am I ready? Looking at the latest issue of the Times, I’m more ready now that I ever was, but I think I have a term or so left to brush up on my AP styles. There is still so much that I need to learn, to remember, to integrate into my psyche, what it means to put out a really good paper. 

Ryan will make a good editor in chief next year.  Joe will mold him into a leader, just as he did me, just as he did Brian, and  all the other editors before us. He will learn all the ins and outs of the newspaper production cycle and he will have to contend with missed deadlines, mistakes, and mishaps. He’s going to learn more than he ever thought he would.

Being the editor of the Times has also enabled me to meet people I probably never would had I not had to write about them. I think I have said it before, but I will say it again; I love this job.