An ending is just a new beginning

I read somewhere that an ending is really just a new beginning.

In the past year I’ve had to face the end of something that meant the world to me, but now I see that it was just paving the for me to start something new. But I couldn’t see it…until I did.

When I started my newspaper project I couldn’t see an ending because I didn’t want to. I had an exit plan, but I didn’t want to admit that was even a possibility. I knew my newspaper was going to make it and I was going to do everything in my power to see that happen.

Well, I did do my best, but in the end, the operating costs became too expensive. Working a full-time job, I couldn’t get out and get ads. Even if I could, I’m not sure if it would have mattered.

Let’s face it; I’m not a pushy person. When someone said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” all I could say was, “OK, thank you for your time,” and left feeling rejected.

I did have a few hopeful moments when I did get advertisements, but when I realized that I didn’t want to have to do this for the rest of my life, I accepted that I am not a salesperson and began to look at other alternatives.

It took me a month or two before I realized that this was not the end, but just the beginning of something even better.

I still have my website at, but I am devoting more time and attention to other projects, including book publishing and a freelance business.

Who knows? Maybe these projects won’t work out, but there will always be a new beginning if they don’t.

So much news, so little time

I was reminded again today that there’s a story everywhere you look. While I was attending a get-together for business owners in Hiawatha, I met a woman who worked for an organization called, “To the Rescue.” The business helps older people stay in their homes, instead of having to move to a retirement home or assisted living.

This woman told me about her business, but it was the story behind the story that I found so fascinating. She told me that she previously lived in Palisades Park in a cabin with her daughter before moving to Cedar Rapids, and then to Hiawatha.

“That was before I drove semi…” she told me matter-of-factly. Without batting an eye, she told me how much she enjoys living in Hiawatha. As she returned to her original story regarding her business, I diverted back to the semi story.

“Did you like it?” I asked.

“Well,” she started. “It was quite an experience…” She was cut off by Dee Baird, president of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance (Chamber of Commerce).

I was quick to get the woman’s card and info before I was off to meet other Hiawatha business leaders.

Everybody has a story. It is who we are and where we’re going. It’s lessons we’ve learned and accomplishments we’ve mastered. It is what has helped us get to where we are.  Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes not, but they are always worthy of being told.

I was recently asked how I will come up with content to put in my paper every week. It’s not the lack of content that I’m worried about, but more if I will have the time to write all that I want. If that’s all that I ever had to do, I could write until my heart gave out.

I guess we’ll just have to see. After all, I was wondering how I would come up with the content to write everyday and so far, it’s been easy. But I’m afraid that once I get busy, it’ll be the lack of time that will be the problem. But then, I’m sure I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

One of my "stories." Kandi Wolfe is an insurance agent who loves to paint and plans on painting a mural on her employer's building this spring in Hiawatha. (Photo by Kandi Wolfe)

2011-A year of triumphs and tragedies (Week 29)

I was writing a review of 2011 for my website and realized that there some stories that received much more attention than others.

We all remember the Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox trials. Both received a lot of media attention. and though both ended up with the women beating their murder charges, they will go on to live quite different lives. I have a feeling we aren’t done with either of them.

Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for not doing more to prevent Jackson’s death, following an overdose. This is a story which I’m sure we’ll hear more of, as well.

But what about the other news stories of the year?

Japan’s 9.1 earthquake that created a tsunami that took out the coastal nuclear plant was in the news for a few weeks. But now the story of the debris that is turning up on Canada’s shorelines has found a place on the bottom of Page 5.What is happening in Japan today? Does anyone care? It seems as though stories such as this one gets forgotten as soon as a more important story comes along.

How soon people forget.

Harry Morgan, a character actor who co-starred in many Disney movies, played

Borrowed from Scott Holloran's Blog

opposite Jack Webb (Joe Friday) on Dragnet, and then went on to star as Colonel Potter in the TV show MASH, died Dec. 7. He was 96. I remember him most when he played an angel opposite Fred MacMurray in Charley and the Angel. Charley (Fred MacMurray) is a workaholic, who finds out from an angel that his “number’s up” and he will be dying soon. In the time he has left, he tries to change his ways and be a better husband and father. I hate to ruin the ending, but it’s the part I love best. Harry (the angel) catches a bullet meant for MacMurray and a happy ending is had by all.

Other people I didn’t know had died in 2011 include former child actor Jackie Cooper, Peter Falk, Bubba Smith, and ‘Jane Russell. But maybe I missed the news on that day, but I doubt it. I just don’t think that their star power was enough to overshadow the more important stories of the day, which is kind of sad.

News is news, and unfortunately, whatever is more sensational usually gets top billing. But I think all news is newsworthy, even the littlest tidbits.

As I have said before, I see everything as a potential story. And 2012 should be quite a year for news. I’m looking forward to a brand new, whatever news it may bring with it.

In the news-Week 19

It’s been a busy week for news.

The Hiawatha Advocate

The Occupy Wall Street protest in New York has moved west, and has begun to occupy the capital of Iowa. Dozens of protestors were arrested as a result, according to the Des Moines Register and sought to gain permits to occupy space in front of the capitol.

The NBA has announce this morning that the first two weeks of pro basketball games will be suspended due to the breakdown of talks between the teams.

Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s pizza, is rising in the polls and now second behind Mitt Romney. Cain, a Republican, has been using the tagline, “Let’s Get Real,” to lure potential voters into his realm of thinking.

There’s a lot more news, but these are the headlines that many people in Iowa are talking about.

I’m glad to see people standing up for what they believe in. I support their struggle in trying to  wake up the leaders of our government and let them know that we are not happy with the way they are running the government.  They have not been listening to the pleas of the American people, that something needs to be done to lessen the gap that is growing wider between the classes.

I am also worried about the suspension of basketball games in the NBA, but not for the same reason that many sports fans are. I’m worried because the suspension means the loss of millions of dollars in ticket sales and vending sales for the respective cities. More people will be out of work as a result of the suspension. It’s sad to think that athletes have such a crucial hold over our economy, but we have to look at it realistically. Pro sports is a big business. The breakdown of talks came as a result of not being able to agree on the amount of revenue that would be shared with the players. Wow; obviously, they aren’t paid enough. (see above story)

Herman Cain. Well, we’ll see. He’s for small business, and his tagline is great, but I have become leery about political candidates, as I should be.

Week 19 has me analyzing the news more than ever; who, what, when, why, where, and how. Most importantly, I am looking at what news is and what it isn’t, how it is presented, and how I would handle it if I were in the same situation. I am noticing that sensationalism is all around us. Is it good? Is it unethical? Are there too many people in this business just to make a buck?

Sadly, I think many are. Some have sold out to see how high of a rating they can get or how much money they can make. News is news, no matter how it is presented. Unfortunately, the world of journalism is a competitive one.

But closer to home, I’ve been busy with my website, the Hiawatha Advocate. I went to my first Hiawatha city council meeting and got a lot of great information. I wrote a few articles and am getting to know the people of Hiawatha. I visited a few businesses last week and talked to the owners to find out what it is they really want in a community newspaper.

I still have so much to do, but I keep taking that next step forward. My newest challenge seems to be finding time to do it all, but it always seems to work itself out.

I also find that the more I worry, the less productive I am, so it makes perfect sense not to worry so much. I have a lot of faith in what I’m doing. As I have said before, I have never had a bad feeling about. Anxiety, yes, but never a bad feeling.

The Hiawatha Advocate

Week 11–the heart of a journalist

I had a busy week, mostly taking pictures and making videos. I’m starting to get into the back-to-school mode and trying to tie up loose ends before I make the plunge back into homework and deadlines.

One thing I have noticed in the past few years since deciding on a career in journalism; I see everything as a potential story… everything. It has taken me practice and know-how to determine exactly what kind of story it will be, but a story, nonetheless.

I walked into the Mount Mercy University bookstore today to say hello to a friend and ended up leaving with information about a jewelry display on their counter. I never noticed it before and I asked Janie Mills, the manager of the bookstore, if it was new. She told me no, but it had been in a basket at the end of the counter, and they just decided to display it better. The jewelry sales, she continued, is raising money for cancer research, and was started by a local girl whose mother was dying of cancer. She was 12 years old when she started, and Janie said didn’t know much more about it, but said the bookstore is selling the jewelry to help them out.

That’s all I needed to know. It was the start of a story. I’m still not sure what I will do with it, but I’m sure something will come of it.

That’s what I mean. I just have it in my blood, I guess. I find so many things interesting that sometimes it gets me into trouble and I end up with so many things on my plate. I have to learn to decide what things are more important.

This weekend my grandson had his Su Kwan, a Buddhist blessing, which I blogged about earlier. I saw a story there, too. I really did try to just enjoy the celebration, as any grandparent would, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to get just the right angle for pictures, just the right spot for the video. I just kept thinking to myself, they’ll thank me some day. And I did enjoy it, just not leisurely. I think everyone is getting used to seeing me carry a camera around everywhere I go, snapping pictures, looking for the perfect photo opportunity.

My 5-year-old granddaughter spent the night with me last night and she started telling me about her day at a rinky-dink zoo in Manchester, Iowa, which was at a lady’s house. She was so funny that I had to stop her and go get my camera to record her. “OK, now tell me again about the animals you saw,” I told her. I didn’t have to encourage her too much; she’s a natural!

I used to think it was strange of me to see a story in most everything I heard and saw, but now I don’t think it’s so out of the ordinary–not for a journalist, anyway.

Su Kwan Video

Zoo Video

The Hiawatha Advocate

A dry run-Week 10

This week I was given a challenge–to see if I could produce a newspaper in a week. Well, I have done that before, but that’s when I had a staff of 9. But you know me; I love a challenge, so I took it.

What resulted wasn’t half-bad. Actually, I’m pretty proud of myself. I made the deadline, which, in itself is a major feat, considering I had a full-time job and other things to contend with.

Knowing that I couldn’t do all the work myself in a week, I enlisted the help of a couple of my friends. They were happy to oblige and that gave me four articles to use. I also knew I couldn’t put together a 16-page paper and make all the ads and write all the stories myself in a week and so I used fillers, just to see how it would look in the end.

Since this issue will not be sold or even really looked at by too many people, I used a few of my old blog articles and a few of my current web articles. I laid it all out so I could see what I had to work with and get some ideas for when my real first issue comes out in February.

But I didn’t only have to worry about content, I had to make the ads myself. That wasn’t so bad. My summer job as a web ad editor really came in handy. I was able to slap together some fairly decent ads in no time.

Everything I have learned up to this point was put into play. I made a story list, page dummies, handed out the assignments and laid my pages out. I printed the pages out, edited them, and took them to the printer.

As I sat down to my computer, something came over me, and I knew that this is what I am meant to do. It was awesome to see everything I have worked for coming together in one 16-page paper.

I will have challenges; that’s a given. But I still have a few months to smooth the rough edges and come up with a workable template. If I had to put a newspaper out next week, I could.

That’s all I needed to know. Now I can move onto other areas of the newspaper business; getting out and meeting people and businesses in the community. Oh, yeah, and school will be starting soon.

Things are moving along as scheduled and I’m learning a lot. My dad often told me to have patience and  that, “good things come to those who wait.” Maybe this is what he meant.


News not all it seems to be

The early mornings hours are usually my own. I get up at 5:30 and do whatever I want for a few hours, usually without interruption. Once I have  my coffee and my laptop, I settle back onto my bed and turn on the morning news. The local news comes on and for and for an hour or so, I am brought up to speed as to the happenings in my city. After that, it’s Good Morning, America!

I’m probably what I would refer to as a fair-weathered friend of the show. I enjoy the hosts (Robin Roberts and her battle with breast cancer, George Stephanopoulos, with his boyish charm, and Sam Champion with his impressive knowledge of the weather) and they have a great setup.  However, there are times when I wonder who does the programming.

When  a huge news story breaks, the show headlines the topic for a week, inundating the public with the latest tidbits. After numerous reports of the ins and outs of the story, from  personal accounts (“I collect royal wedding memorabilia”) to expert interviews on the latest disasters (“Yes, the crazy weather could possible, most likely, maybe be contributed to global warming”) the sensationalism finally winds down to a trickle, and sometimes disappears all-together.

I’m not knocking the show’s news sense, but enough is enough. Two weeks of learning about Kate Middleton, watching videos of how she and William met, dedicating a whole show to the wedding itself and ignoring the real news is, in my opinion, a bad choice. When I watch news, it’s because I’m concerned with what’s happening in the world around me, rather than someone’s lovelife.

Sometimes I think the show is meant to be more entertaining than anything else. Their concern for ratings might dictate their sense of programming, and I can’t argue with that.  However, I don’t consider that to be hard-hitting journalism.

This whole topic comes as a result of a conversation I had with my professor yesterday on writing, finding the news and putting it in the lead of a story.

Finding the news. As simple as it sounds, it isn’t always easy that easy for me. Joe is always reminding me not to write “brochure copy,” and at first, I didn’t quite understand what he meant. What’s wrong with brochure copy? It can be

Courtesy of Google Images

entertaining, right?

Maybe, but it’s not news. I understand that now.

For years I wrote just to write; now I’m writing with a purpose. I am a journalist and I write the news. If I want people to read my news stories, I have to make the stories compelling and interesting. I won’t be selling newspapers if they aren’t.

This is just one challenge I face as I become publisher of my own newspaper. I’m still learning, but I’m getting closer, taking it one step at a time.

News in a nutshell

A lot has happened in that past two weeks. I scarcely had the chance to think about the royal wedding before the world was told that Osama Bin Laden was taken down. The next day, local news had a field day when a hydrogen truck blew up at the Duane Arnold Energy Center and a man fell to his death from the federal building under construction in Cedar Rapids.

Through it all, I had interviews to conduct, presentations to present, stories to write, senior projects to piece together, and term papers to research. So, I had to prioritize. My personal agenda came first, of course, but the news of the world weighed heavily on my mind.

So here are my thoughts on some of the happenings in the universe, in a nutshell:

Like many people, I was getting pretty tired of listening to the non-stop dribble of the lives of the British prince William and his lovely fiance, Kate. But then they brought in the memory of Diana, whom I respected because of her love for her children and humanity, and I caved a little. Then they talked about how, in an interview, the  Kate Middleton, the future Duchess of Cambridge said, when asked if she felt lucky dating the prince, replied, “I think he should be lucky to be dating me!” Smart girl.

I also realized that because of their love for tradition, this was probably a really huge deal for them, and probably all they have to look forward to. So I had to cut them some slack.  I was amazed, however, at the media’s respect to leave them alone for their shortened honeymoon. Lucky for them (and us) Bin Laden was killed that very weekend.

My son called late that Sunday night and told me that Bin Laden was dead. Because my son likes to tell stories, I had to turn on the TV to check it out. It sounds kind of silly, but I was in shock to see it and hear it on national television. Finally, after 10 years of hunting this man down, he was hijacked in his own bedroom by our own Navy SEALS.

Like I said, at first it was shock, but then when I saw how many people were celebrating the death of this man, I was kind of sad, sad that a man who had killed so many and was Hell-bent on killing more in the name of his God, was really a pathetic old man on an ego trip. What took so long?  I had to agree with a news skit on Saturday Night Live when the anchor, comedian Seth Meyers, said that the stories kept changing as to how Bin Laden died. He quipped, “No one cares, Guys, we’re just glad you did it.”

Other events, which happened locally, included a man who was thought to have fallen from the Federal building that is under construction downtown. Officials still aren’t sure what happened, but the man was laid off that day, leading those who knew him to believe he may have committed suicide.

And if that wasn’t enough, I got a phone call from my mother who said that 9 news broke in during, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” that said that there had been an explosion at the nuclear plant in Palo. The news channel said that everyone was fine, the truck driver delivering fuel was only slightly injured. It tuned out OK, but still, a very intense few hours.

So it just goes to show you, when it rains, it pours.  An old cliché, maybe used way too much, but very fitting in cases such as these. It’s a reminder that you can’t predict hen real news will happened and you have to be prepared to handle many stories at once, or maybe none at all. I’ve heard of a “slow news day” but what do you call it when you have way too much to cover?

Maybe penning a new term is in order.  How about, an “All Hell breaks loose” day? Oh wait, I think that one’s been used.