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.

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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

You have to be a little crazy to move the world

Lying in bed Saturday morning, I mentally took note of everything I had to do that day, and the next, and the next.

I must be crazy, I thought. How do I think I’m going to accomplish all this?

I started working again last week, as an office temp in a local trucking company. I wasn’t expecting to work a full-time job, but I have to do what I have to do. My student loans are coming due, and I will do anything to see this newspaper succeed.

But I do have to be a little crazy.

Another person asked me last week how I do it. My reaction was, “I don’t know.”

But I do know. I just put one foot in front of the other and keep going, no matter what.

Maybe that’s what it takes, to just keep moving forward.

Putting out the paper every week is not the problem. The only problem I can see is getting enough advertisers to pay the bills. I still have a lot of Faith and of course, a lot of Hope.

The same person who asked how I do it every week also said, “Well, if it doesn’t take off, it sure won’t be your fault.”

I guess I have to take that comment for what it is; a sincere compliment to my abilities. Besides, as I have said before, I have already succeeded. This is just icing on the cake.

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

Week 31-Closer to reality

In just 45 days, my community newspaper will become a reality. It’s hard to believe that it all started with an idea and alot of faith.

When I first started talking about my idea to start a newspaper, I’m sure that some thought that I was just dreaming, that it would never really amount to anything. But here we are, more than a year later, planning the first issue and putting the final pieces together.

I was recently asked by someone close to me, “Are you afraid?”

Afraid isn’t the right word, nor is it relevant. At this point, there’s not going back and no giving up. I have put a lot of work into this and I intend to see it through.

More than anything else, I’m excited! How many people get the chance to see their dreams become a reality?

I’ve gotten to know Hiawatha fairly well in the past year. A few developments have come up that have been substantial learning experiences, and I suppose looking at it that way has taken the fear out of it; for the most part, anyway.

I still get a little anxious now and then at the thought of how it will all pan out, but that’s just part of the experience.

Hiawatha Advocate

Week 24–Everyone’s a critic

I have been busy the past few days finalizing projects that will be due in just a couple short weeks. I’m used to deadlines and last minute touch ups, but this time is different. I feel it.

This is my last semester at Mount Mercy University. I planned on finishing my classes early so I could concentrate on my new career as newspaper publisher. I’ll miss the homework, the students, the professors, and the critiquing; yes, even the critiquing.

When I started at Kirkwood Community College three years ago, I opened myself up to new challenges that would help me become a better journalist. It was difficult at first. There was no sugar-coating and I learned to take it like a man, or rather, a woman.

Transferring to Mount Mercy University intimidated me a bit, with more homework and a weekly newspaper, but I dug in and learned as much as I could.

I admit that I cried the first time I was told that my story wasn’t good enough. But after I dried my tears, I vowed that I would take what my teachers told me and do it that way. I still forget to put the most important information first or that I can’t write the way I talk, and that my articles shouldn’t sound like brochure copy, but I’m still learning; I always will be.

I have a big problem. I want my work to be perfect, but it’s not. There is always editing to do, and even when I think it’s “good enough” to go to print, I still find things I could have done differently, things I could have done better. But….

I am ready.

Soon I won’t have that safety net, that person to whom I could turn to when I had a question or concern, or when I wasn’t sure how to do something. Soon I will be on my own. That’s a scary thought.

But I have been taught well and the voices will be there inside my head guiding me when I am unsure of myself.

To those critics who never sugar-coated the truth, encouraged me to be better, and were there when I needed the support, thank you. You have made a difference in my life.

Week 24 has me reflecting on how hard these last three years have been and how I could have never reached my goals without the love and support of the people in my life.

There are a few people who don’t think I have what it takes to start a community newspaper, and so I say to them, “Watch me.”

I have been taught well.

The Hiawatha Advocate