Tag Archives: ICMA

Fairy Tales and Poignant Memories: ICMA Day 1


MMU Times Editor Connor Mahan and Managing Editor Madelyn Orton at ICMA conference.

We had some great presentations on the first day of the Iowa College Media Association Convention in Des Moines. The most memorable moment came after the ICMA awards ceremony, when the state media’s association annual Eighmey Award, for a person in Iowa who has aided college media, went to Pat Pisarik of Loras College in Dubuque.

The award was voted on before Oct. 30 of last year, when sadly and unexpectedly, Pat passed away. His family was there to receive his honor. And ICMA renamed it’s “student journalist of the year award” as the “Pat Pisarik Student Journalist of the Year.”

It was a touching event, and his family received a standing ovation from the association.


Son of Pat Pisarik at ICMA ceremony.

Earlier, Tim Harrower, a national icon in the world of newspapers who wrote the classic text on design and also a popular text on reporting, gave ICMA’s keynote address.

Using a fairy tale theme, Harrower retold stories such as “Chicken Little” to be entertaining fables about modern journalism (Chicken Little ends up working for a conglomerate that produces fried chicken and finds “another way to serve readers.”).

In his version of the “Fox and the Grapes,” the fox gets angry that too many grapes lean left, so Fox plants his own vineyard where all of the grapes lean right.

Yes, I loved it. A keynote address full of the kind of “dad jokes” that make my wife and children chuckle or groan, but it was also full of insight and wisdom.


Hand of Tim Harrower.


Tim Harrower.

Harrower had us all raise our hands and swear never to lie lest we be eaten by wolves. In today’s world of social media alternative facts, it’s more important than ever that journalists be truth tellers, even if the audience seems to be struggling to distinguish truth from Fake News of the kind perpetrated by Foxes and fake presidents.

At one point, Harrower gave advice to students on how to land a job. He noted that he was in a position to hire for the largest paper in Oregon, and he confessed he never cared about GPA nor even which school an applicant came from. There are two keys to landing a media job, he says: “10 great clips and a pleasant personality.”

“I’ve talked with a lot of talented geniuses that I would not hire because I didn’t want to have lunch with them,” he said.

As a professor, I would hasten to add that grades matter to some employers, and certainly have some impact on scholarships and recognition, so don’t totally relax too much, students. But the importance of grades really is whether they are symptom of learning—if they show that you got out of each experience what you could. Because, frankly, Harrower is right—they may be part of some employer’s screening of applications, but for the most part, they don’t really matter in terms of getting a job.

It’s more than journalism. For PR, graphic design, technical writing, TV, radio—any form of professional communication, remember his advice. The “clips” may be a photo gallery or web site or audio stories or a demo “tape” (we really have to work on updating that language, even “clips” these days are usually PDFs), but you land that first job with a smile and conversation and 10 great samples of what you can do.

And samples from student media, the MMU Times, and an internship or internships, always mean way more than any class work.

So what do you with the advice? Mr. Harrower offered further words.

“When a good story comes along, jump on it with both feet,” he said, adding that you report the heck out of it and produce a great story, great pictures, an online video, etc.

“That gives you one,” he noted, going on to repeat that you need to do it nine more times.

For me, the great disappointment of the day was that MMU did not win any ICMA awards. I need to find out what happened—I’m hoping there was not a glitch with our entries, but I am suspicious, because we’ve never been totally skunked in the past and there were good stories and materials in our contest entries. In particular, the winning front page displayed at the contest was, in my very biased opinion, not better then the page we had entered. Assuming we were in the running for awards, that there was not glitch, however, the take away is that we need to up our game, especially online.

Earlier in the afternoon, we participated in a media tour, and chose to go to the Register’s downtown newsroom. I had been there before, but it was worth seeing their Star Trek like control area and the banks of desks with a window view of the Capitol’s golden dome. The students who were with me really enjoyed it.

And one of our tour guides was Kyle Munson, whose “Kyle Munson’s Iowa” is one of the highlights of The Des Moines Register. I got to take a picture of him perched on a chair in a hallway to speak to an ICMA crowd. It was a totally fan boy moment, and I loved it.

All in all, day one would have been better with a few awards for Times staff writers, but it was still a day with many outstanding events. I’m glad we came, and I have just one thought about the contest: 10 great clips—we need to produce multiple, better stories. Students, they can get you a job, and, it is to be hoped, they can get your newspaper some prizes.


Connor and Maddie listen at ICMA.

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#ICMA 2017—Things I Think I Learned


Kevin Kush, head football coach at Boys Town and author of “A Pieces of the Puzzle: Eight Traits of a Quality Teammate” speaks at the INA and ICMA conventions in Des Moines.

On Monday, IowaWatch.org is scheduled to publish a story that says, basically, college newspapers are changing all over the state—some college news media have abandoned print altogether and gone exclusively online, while those that still produce newspapers are printing fewer pages or issues as their core audience rejects print.

So it was interesting to me, in an afternoon panel Feb. 3 on “How Do Campus News Organizations Remain Relevant?” to hear a student at Buena Vista University and panelist among leading journalists from many Iowa campus, report this news from BVU: Print will be back.

For a university had led the way several years ago in shifting from a physical newspaper to strictly a virtual news source on-line, an upcoming special print edition is a big deal. Maybe it makes BVU’s college new media more tangible, real.

But, to me, the theme of Friday at the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA) convention was the inevitable media shift to mobile, instantly accessible journalism.


Zack Kucharski, executive editor of The Gazette, moderates an ICMA panel.

One afternoon panel of college journalists was moderated by Zach Zucharski, executive editor of The Gazette. He had, for me, the quote of the day on media innovation:

“We have an opportunity, every day, to do it better,” he said. Then he said something like: Even if it didn’t work today, we still have tomorrow. I can’t put that second sentence in quotation marks, honestly, because my notes get too spidery at that point.

The second day of the ICMA conference on Friday began with a shouted inspirational speech by a football coach. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it—the Iowa Newspaper Association had brought in a football player last year as its morning speaker, and although his presentation was so compelling that I purchased his book right afterwards, I just wasn’t thinking before Friday’s speech that what my life needs is more wisdom from football.

But, despite his very coachish delivery style, Kevin Kush, the football coach at Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, turned out to be a very good speaker. His advice on how to be “A Piece of the Puzzle” was pretty straightforward and familiar—points like “a piece of the puzzle believes in the team concept,” or “a piece of the puzzle adapts to change.” Yet, the anecdotes and personal humor he used as illustrations made the advice more powerful than I expected.

Although it was number three on his list, he said his main point was “a piece of the puzzle respects everyone.”

Well, as journalism tries to puzzle together a changing media environment, remembering both respect and adaptability are important to us, too. And yes, once again, a football person talked me into purchasing his book.


Kevin Kush sells a book to MMU student Capria Davis.

Also on Friday, I attended a presentation by Kelli Brown of The Des Moines Register. She showed many examples of new news storytelling platforms, including interactive videos that let the viewer stitch together a story. To be honest, some of what she showed seemed to me to fit into the blurring of news and entertainment that is not a positive trend in our society, but I still appreciated the peek at up-and-coming storytelling tools.

And I’m going to email her to get a copy of her slide deck so I can check out those tools and some 360 cameras.

One points she made stood out to me—these days, a large majority of the Register’s online audience accesses the newspaper through mobile devices. If you’re producing content for the web, you have to take into account that most of your consumers will be looking at it via a tiny smartphone screen.

ICMA 2017 was an intersting conference. Thank you, INA, for again hosting us. Here is a link to my Facebook gallery of day 2.

And watch for that IowaWatch.org story Monday!

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#ICMA2017: And Connor Does It Again


Connor Mahan, who repeated as winner of best news photograph in the annual ICMA contest. He is, I assume, texting his family the good news.

Kudos to Connor Mahan, Brooke Woolley and Madison Coates. The MMU students won first-place awards in various categories of the Iowa better newspaper contest announced Feb. 2 at the Iowa College Media Association Convention in Des Moines.

It was interesting that, of the four first-place awards going to the MMU Times, the three that were won by Connor and Brooke all were related to the flood of 2016. Connor was a repeat winner in one category—last year, his photograph of a young boy at the replica of the Vietnam Wall at MMU won best news photograph of the year, and he did it again this year with an image of Father Tony Adawu and an MMU student sandbagging during the September flood.


Winning page, with winning photo and story.

Both Connor and Brooke shared the first-place award for best news story of the year for their jointly written coverage of that flood. And Brooke got best front page for the edition of the Mount Mercy Times reporting on the flood.

In addition, Madison Coates’ staff editorial last school year defending journalism won first place for best editorial leadership.

I had hoped to write several posts about ICMA today—there was a lot of think about from day 1. But, it’s getting late and I’m tired.

So here are just a few notes. Victoria Lim, who does PR for Brandman University, but who until recently was a multimedia PR storyteller for Disney and a multimedia journalist before that, was an excellent ICMA keynote speaker.

I thought her “zoo” idea to demonstrate storytelling was very good. And she made a key point to students, one I’ve often stated, but it’s good to hear someone else make. She asked the students what is the most important skill needed to be a multimedia storyteller. They listed attributes such as imagination and creativity, which she conceded were important.

But to her, the number-one skill is what I tell all communication students their number-one skill has to be: Writing.

“If you can write, you can do content, stories, whatever you call it, on any platform,” Lim noted.

Anyway, here is a list of the awards won by the MMU Times this year:

  • First place, best news photograph, Connor Mahan.
  • First place, best news story, Connor Mahan and Brooke Woolley.
  • First place, best page 1, Brooke Woolley.
  • First place, best opinion/editorial leadership, Madison Coates.
  • Third place, best profile story, Todd Cross.
  • Third place, best headline writing, Bianca Kesselring.
  • Honorable mention, best opinion writing, Billie Barker.
  • Honorable mention, best sports photograph, Sam Techau.

    Job well done, students. More images. And now I’m going to bed.


MMU students Capria Davis, Connor Mahan, Brooke Woolley and Anna Bohr with prizes won by the MMU Times at the ICMA convention in Des Moines.

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Final Words From Weekend ICMA Convention

Retired New York Fire Lt. Joe Torrillo, who described his harrowing 9/11 experiences during the INA/ICMA convention.

Retired New York Fire Lt. Joe Torrillo, who described his harrowing 9/11 experiences during the INA/ICMA convention.

Unless I think of something else to say—and there is always that risk—I’m closing the door on the 2014 Iowa College Media Association convention, hosted by the Iowa Newspaper Association at its annual convention, which this final post.

What was the good, the bad and the ugly of ICMA 2014?

Thursday lunch, which was good. Sadly, I did not photograph my Zombie Burger. I was too hungry and it was attacked and consumed before cameras could be used. Just like a zombie would grab some brains.

Thursday lunch, which was good. Sadly, I did not photograph my Zombie Burger. I was too hungry and it was attacked and consumed before cameras could be used. Just like a zombie would grab some brains.

Good—All of the stuff I already wrote about, such as the Register tour, seeing candidates, etc. But, also: Discovering Zombie Burgers. In general, I ate well this convention—the Marriott has a good food service—but supper out Thursday night after winning 15 awards was grand, and cholesterol filled. I had something called the “Juan of the Dead” which featured slightly spicy chilies on top of some sort of fried cheese patty on top of two hamburgers and an inadequate and innocent bun. They warned me to cut it before eating, because the cheese bomb can explode. It was good advice. It was a great hamburger. The fries were perfect and I liked the dipping sauce, too. The networking lunch at the West End Architectural Salvage was fun, but the Zombie Burgers were a culinary highlight.

Bad—Forgetting my credit card at Zombie Burgers. A quick, cold drive for no reason other than an aging memory. Luckily, our witty waiter had spotted the card and saved it for me.

Ugly—Not much, really. The first few minutes in the MMU van were a bit cold. The traditional stop at the War Memorial was pretty silly. I don’t like Des Moines traffic, and leaving during the afternoon commute was a bit blah—but that’s not really ugly. Nothing was. It was a good convention.

More Good–I also enjoyed the Friday kick-off speech by retired New York Fire Department Lt. Joe Torrillo. He has a good story, which he tells well.

The speech was most powerful in the middle. The lead-in about his fire safety career was OK, but the story really took off when he got to his 9/11 experience. From his background, he understood how the World Trade Center was constructed, and within a few minutes of arriving at the scene, surmised that the towers would traumatically collapse. He succeeded in getting a triage area moved from the lobby of one of the towers, but left too late to leave himself and was buried in the first tower collapse. Found seriously injured but alive, he was placed on a boat in the Hudson River which was buried when the second tower collapsed.

Yikes! Bad enough to have one tower fall on you—but both? For three days, because he was wearing another firefighter’s coat with the wrong name inside, his family was informed he was dead.

Well, that made quite a story. Oddly, at the end of the speech, when he was making his pitch for all Americans to re-united, his message seemed to get away, a bit. Maybe I just was not sure what he wanted. It was a bit weird, too, that the chippy, clip-art like images at the end of the speech sort of pulled his punch, a bit.

Still, if you ever get a chance to hear him speak, please do. He understands very well that he is representing more than 300 brothers who didn’t make it out of the buildings on that day, and his story is one that is very worth sharing.

ICMA’s convention had many highlights for me. I liked all of the sessions. In fact, I missed the ICMA Young Professional’s panel, which I enjoy pretty much every year.

So, INA, thank you very much, from this ICMA advisor. The 2014 convention was far more good than bad and ugly, and I appreciate your support.

And, for one last time, congratulations staff of MMU Times. Next year—lets with 14 multimedia awards to go with our 14 newspaper awards, shall we? But, job well done.

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What Did I Learn About The State of Journalism?


Ted Jackson speaks to ICMA awards ceremony. Most of what I write about is from his seminar presentation the next day.Ted Jackson, a great photographer, does not like oatmeal, one of my favorite breakfasts.

Ted Jackson, a great photographer, does not like oatmeal, one of my favorite breakfasts.

At one point during his excellent presentation to the Iowa College Media Association Convention, a gathering hosted by the Iowa Newspaper Convention at their annual meeting, Jackson showed a picture of a sign made for him by his college roommate. “Never,” it said over a picture of the Quaker Oats guy, “Be Mundane.”

OK, I can understand oatmeal as a symbol of mundane. But add a bit of honey, some peanut butter, a bit of cinnamon, some walnuts and raisins, craisins or both—well, you’ve got crunchy, nutty good morning nutrition, satisfaction in a bowl.

Photography is a bit like that, I suppose. It’s easy to do an average job of it, to take photos that show, as Jackson says, what things look like, but that don’t really compel a reaction or do well at telling a story.

Jasckson, who has shot incredible images of the aftermath of Katrina and showed multiple of that and other examples of his compelling visual journalism, shared several ideas. What were some highlights to me:

  • Aim for the rule of three. You’ve heard the rule of thirds. To Jackson, every photo should have three things that make it stand out. Subject, light, composition, the decisive moment, framing—not every image will have it all, and many have just two good points. A photo with three stands out.
  • Work a little harder. If what you’re doing is easy, and you’re a professional story teller, you may not be doing it right. One of the other advisors, chatting after the session, noted that it’s the same with writing. If what you’re doing seems easy, you’re probably not doing it hard enough or paying enough attention. I was impressed at how Jackson pushed himself. He showed a picture of a Cajun in a boat, and to most photographers, it would be a very good image. But he played with shutter speed, the presence of light cutting through background trees and the instance when the man in the boat leaned back to take a deep breath—and voila, rather than settling for the very nice image, several snaps later Jackson had captured something extraordinary.

I think it illustrates a point I make to students which Jackson didn’t state, but that was, I think, implicit in his work. One aspect that makes a great photojournalist is imagination. Not fiction—not creating that which doesn’t exist—but the ability to think of the different angle, to sense elements that could be framed—to imagine and then executive better photographs.

Jackson was a highlight of ICMA for me. But so was seeing the new newsroom of the Des Moines Register in an excellent tour led by Rick Green, Publisher.

The newsroom is stunning. It’s a bit like a giant bridge from the star ship Enterprise, although instead of one screen as the focus of a great semicircle, it has a bank of nine to 12 screens. And the semicircle spreads out in row upon row. In the other directios, window looked east where the gold dome of the Capitol shone in the setting sun.

Well, the main bridge of the star ship Register was exciting enough. They also showed us a state-of-the-art TV studio, which made me almost salivate with envy. A less fancy version of this same room is something I’ve been lobbying for at MMU in recent years. No, we don’t need a full broadcast studio, but yes, we do need a room decently equipped for video production. Between communication, marketing and art, we have too many disciplines on campus that need a strong video component to not have this kind of room.

Rick Green, publisher of the Des Moines Register, makes a point in the newspaper-web site's video production studio room.

Rick Green, publisher of the Des Moines Register, makes a point in the newspaper-web site’s video production studio room.

Green noted that the Register has a deadline every minute of the day, and that it produces its newspaper out of its digital online news service, rather than the other way around.

It left me thinking that we at MMU need to push much harder in that direction.

Besides the visionaries—Jackson and Green—the ICMA convention included other interesting journalistic speakers.

In particular, a former TV anchor and former governor’s press secretary, Courtney Greene, and former Register writer and Pulitzer-Prize winner, Jane Meisner, who now work together doing PR at AIB College of Business in Des Moines, described their careers and their paths from journalism to PR.

Well, it’s a route may careers have taken. For our students, it’s important to note that any communication career has multiple twists and turns.


Courtney Greene, former TV anchor.

So what is my take away from the 2014 ICMA convention? For one thing, I’m not as pessimistic about the future of journalism or journalism education. There are bright new things happening, and there is room for new, creative people. For another, I’m more convinced than ever that today’s journalism education requires multiple platform talents—that journalists need to be at ease telling stories any way an audience wants them. That’s not a new idea to me, but it’s one that was emphasized at the conference.


Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Meisner.

Finally, you can be a great journalist and excellent story teller and still make fundamental errors. Like traducing oatmeal without realizing some in your audience come from Cedar Rapids, home of a major Quaker Oats processing mill.

Well, you can’t win them all. And we still love you, Ted.

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The Candidates Stand On Their Soapbox

Second in my posts from the ICMA convention. Stay tuned, probably at least two more to go before I move on from Des Moines.

Bruce Braley was not in town, and not all of the minor candidates showed up, and at least one major contender for the Senate was AWOL.

But I was pleasantly surprised at the number of statewide candidates who did attend a “soapbox” event at the Iowa Newspaper Association Convention Feb. 6. The INA very kindly allows and supports the Iowa College Media Association, ICMA, to co-convention with it, which is why I was there to see the soapbox.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican who is running for re-election and probably will win, was there, as was his major Democratic rival. And several GOP hopefuls for U.S. Sentate showed up, too.

I had several impressions from the event: One, Branstad can stay governor as long as he likes. Neither of the erstwhile candidates who are running against him who were at the forum can lay a glove on him. Two, I think Braley is going to win Tom Harkin’s Senate seat, if the depressing parade of white, Wonder-Bread Republicans on the right are any sign. Anyway, a rundown of my interpretation of what the candidates said:

For Iowa Governor:

Jack Hatch, candidate for Iowa Governor.

Jack Hatch, candidate for Iowa Governor.

Sen. Jack Hatch—he made a big deal of being a housing developer in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. I can’t help but feel he was deliberately reaching out to Iowa’s second city. He also chided the current governor for putting himself above the law on numerous occasions—of having a special arrogance. I don’t disagree, but am not sure that’s the policy question on which an election could turn. Most of all, I wanted a vision for a different Iowa from Sen. Hatch, who is the likely Democratic nominee. It was only a few minutes in one appearance, but I didn’t get one.

Jonathan Narcisse, candidate for Iowa Governor.

Jonathan Narcisse, candidate for Iowa Governor.

Jonathan Narcisse—he says he knows how to win and will. I’m more than a bit skeptical. His emphasis is on jobs for Iowans—not a bad choice, and a focus not just on jobs but on the kind of job being attracted to Iowa would be an important point. He pledges to support Hatch if Hatch is nominated. And, running against Narcisse, Hatch probably will be. Jonathan seems like an interesting guy, but I didn’t hear a vision or issue that would make him catch fire. He is running for the role of interesting character in the race.

Terry Branstad, Governor for Life of Iowa.

Terry Branstad, Governor for Life of Iowa.

Gov. Terry Branstad—The dude abides. He was off like a racehorse when his time came—full of energy and confidence, as only a governor-for-life can radiate. What he said, sort of: Iowa needs to keep going because it was broken and he fixed it and he would like to keep it fixed. I am not one who buys into that narrative—Iowa’s roads, for instance, are falling apart and further economic development may prove difficult in a state you can’t get around in—but the narrative will probably sell. And today, if not on Election Day, this dude can wipe the floor with any of the challengers he faces. I kind of hope things change in this race, but I suspect we’ll have to get used to the Terry as our gov. Seems a shame, to me. I would like a Democrat to emerge who can really take Terry on.

For U.S. Senate:

Matt Whitaker, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate.

Matt Whitaker, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate.

Matt Whitaker—it says right on his web site that he is a “Christian who attends church.” So am I, Matt, but the way you slip that in and noted it in your stump speech totally turns me off. I’ll vote for a Muslim or a Jew or an agnostic or an atheist if she advocates public policy that I consider wise. I don’t see Christianity as being a requirement for public office, and the fact that you do pretty much disqualifies you from my consideration. He is a former Iowa Hawkeye football player. Strike two. He is worried about growing debt. OK, I am concerned about federal debt too, a bit, but as a share of GDP, that debt is shrinking under Obama, so listing that as crisis number one seems like strike three, to me. Go home and enjoy those energetic kids, Matt. The U.S. Senate is a better place without you.

Mark Jacobs, running for U.S. Senate of this great company.

Mark Jacobs, running for U.S. Senate of this great company.

Mark Jacobs—If Matt was the GOP’s scary “Christian” in the race, Mark is the scary businessman—the GOP candidate who is convinced that business experience is just what public service needs. I don’t know why CEOs think that they would make good legislators, and I don’t think Mark would. My favorite Freudian slip of the day was when he stated he was concerned about the direction the “company” was going in, and had to quickly correct that to “country.”

Sam Clovis. Get me out of academia, please.

Sam Clovis. Get me out of academia, please.

Sam Clovis—the best speaker among the GOP group, although Matt spoke well, too. A political science professor, ex Air Force pilot who wears his service ring to remind him what “service” is all about. I can’t say much about what he said, although it was said well. He has read the Constitution. He has flown on planes. And he is a conservative college professor, which maybe explains the desire for a career change since he’s a rare bird. It’s early in the campaign, and maybe he needed to deal more with image and biography, but I would have preferred a bit more talk about what he wants to do.

There you have it. I think Terry Branstad might as well settle in, he’ll be governor as long as he wants to be. Rep. Braley may face more of a battle in the fall—this doesn’t feel like the year of a Democratic surge—but I didn’t see anybody in this trio of GOP hopefuls who could easily knock him off. I guess I would say Matt Whitaker looked strongest on first impression, but if he’s going to run as the right-wing Christian kook, second and third impressions won’t be so positive.

You know, despite my complaints about them, I really enjoyed seeing the candidates. Even if I know I would not like some of them should they be elected, I don’t hate any of them. True, I greatly disagree with many of them. But it’s early, and they are sincere, and they want to serve Iowa. Most of them are going to lose, but it’s important to note that we owe a debt to the losers in political campaigns for raising issues and ideas and helping us discover ourselves.

So, thanks candidates, and thank you, Iowa Newspaper Association, for bringing these guys together.

On the other hand, before the candidates spoke, some reporters who cover politics in Iowa had a discussion in a previous session. And Simpson College professor Brian Steffen noted in a question to them that Iowa shares the distinction of being the only state, besides Mississippi, that has not elected a woman to represent it in Congress or as Governor.

The reporters had various theories why, including lacking a deep bench among women leaders in Iowa politics.

Well, ladies, the stage still seems open, to me. I know the election is very soon, but there seems some room for alternatives in the major statewide races. Joni, are you still in the race? And do you seem a bit more sensible then your guy GOP opponents?

The candidates that I have now seen who are in the arena are not the best that Iowa has to offer, I hope. Even if I credit them with having their hearts in a good place, we need leaders with more effective heads. And I wonder whether we’re doing something fundamentally flawed in our politics that makes such leaders so hard for us to find.

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#ICMA Was Not As I Pictured

John Kaplan, self portrait in mirror, one image from his web site notiasipictured.org. "Not as I Pictured" is his powerful video about his experience undergoing chemo treatment for two simultaneous types of cancer.

John Kaplan, self portrait in mirror, one image from his web site notiasipictured.org. “Not as I Pictured” is his powerful video about his experience undergoing chemo treatment for two simultaneous types of cancer.

The schedule just said “Not as I Pictured” as the name of the speech, and Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalist John Kaplan as the presenter.

It was the only thing scheduled this afternoon at 1:30, and I like photography, so what the heck? I guess I was expecting some sort of presentation about how photos that you take surprise you by being worse or better than expected.

Of course, a second of Google would have clued me in. But maybe the impact was more powerful because I didn’t see it coming.

Kaplan has made a powerful, 54-minute video that chronicles his own battle with two forms of lymphoma.

The chemo has worked, which is a relief, but the ride is an emotional roller coaster. I lost a father in law to this kind of cancer, and felt myself tearing up several times—when Kaplan’s hair was falling out, when his young kids were dancing with him, when he presents the opening lecture of class wearing a “love kills cancer” t-shirt.

If you know someone who is dealing with the reality of cancer, please go to http://www.notasipictured.org/. You will want to get a copy of this video. If you need it, you can get it for free from the web site.

Despite the grim topic, the video is not a downer at all. When he convinces a rock star to deliver a photo to a man who is beating back brain cancer in Michigan—well, no Budweiser cute horsy commercial ever made will tug so hard at your heart or make you feel more uplifted, all the more so because this video is the real deal.

One of Kaplan’s themes in his speech to ICMA and INA introducing the video was that he is very concerned about social responsibility in journalism. Using his own gripping images and videos to tell this story is certain to do a lot of social good, so he is himself an excellent example. When journalism tells consequential stories in depth, it can be very, very powerful.

Well, John, I’m glad you were around to finish the video and talk to us at ICMA. Of infinitely greater importance, I’m glad you are still around to see your children grow. May your arms yet hold grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Today’s ICMA afternoon was just grand. The MMU Times won nine awards, which is peachy keen; I got to tour a Des Moines TV studio with students, and that was fun; Chuck Peters of the Gazette gave a speech that I’m sure will resonate; and I’m looking forward to hearing further thoughts from Lyle Muller, formerly of the Gazette, tomorrow.

But Kaplan was the highlight, so far. His is a powerful story, told with grace and a sense of humanity. Seriously, you need to see this video.


Another of Kaplan’s images from his web site, showing him with his daughter. The story needed a happy ending, and I’m glad to say it has one.

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