Tag Archives: “Mount Mercy Times”

And so the ’Nam Series is Off and Running


The crowd in Flaherty Community Room at Mount Mercy before the show began.

Two views of the crowd in Flaherty Community Room at Mount Mercy before the show began.

My day Wednesday began pretty early, with a 7:15 a.m. stop at WMT radio.

My wife had urged me to leave the house a few minutes earlier, but I didn’t get out the door until about 7:05, so 7:15 was doing well for a quick bike ride. Doug Wagner, the morning host, welcomed me into the studio, we chatted for just a few minutes, and then the interview began.

I think I did OK. I got to sit there for two segments, basically, and it seemed like before it started, my air time was over. You can go to the WMT web site, if you want, and find a podcast—I’m in the 7 a.m. hour on Sept. 2 (starting at minute 17, if you don’t want to wait).

That was just the early start to the long day. I was pretty busy all day long, and a bit frazzled this afternoon in a one-hour class that meets only once a week, when half the class was taken over by a fire drill.

I had been up a bit late the night before, getting a PowerPoint slide show ready.

At 7 p.m., Dr. Joy Ochs, professor of English, and I were set to open the Fall Faculty Series at Mount Mercy University. I had arrived in the room maybe 30 minutes early (yes, I was a little anxious and antsy). Joy showed up about 20 minutes before the talk. We conferred a bit and downloaded our PowerPoint slides, and we had to fuss with the technology a little, but a Word Study student from Event Services was very helpful, and we were ready when it was time to start.


Brianna and Meg, journalists covering the Vietnam Series for the MMU Times.

Picture above was with the camera Brianna is holding--she seems more serious now that I gave her a camera to use!

Picture above was with the camera Brianna is holding–she seems more serious now that I gave her a camera to use!

Father Tony said a prayer. I did a little intro. Joy then took over and gave an interesting presentation on what she confessed was a “date movie” when she was young—“Full Metal Jacket.” She showed a scene of the drill sergeant yelling at the recruits, and noted how the visuals dehumanized the Marines and made them seem like parts of a machine. What the machine could do was shown in another clip, set in the ruins of Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Dr. Joy Ochs, professor of English, speaks. MMU Times photo by Brianna Sturtz.

Dr. Joy Ochs, professor of English, speaks. MMU Times photo by Brianna Sturtz.

Then, it was my turn to head up the river with Capt. Willard in search of Col. Kurtz. It wasn’t “peace now.” It was “Apocalypse Now.”

It seemed that, like the morning radio show, the evening presentation was over before it started. At the presentation, I saw a pretty good mix of students—mostly freshmen from portal classes—and faculty. MMU’s president was there, too. And there was a decent turnout from the community—interestingly enough, some of them the history junkies who came to some WWI events.

Me. MMU Times photo by Brianna Sturtz.

Me. MMU Times photo by Brianna Sturtz.

I didn’t do a head count. I’ll have to ask Event Services tomorrow what they thought—but, although there were a few empty chairs, the seating in the room was mostly taken. All the cookies were eaten. To be truthful, I might have had something to do with that—I have an awesome reputation (as in, it does inspire shock and awe) for stress eating.

Among the students at the forum were two new journalists—Meg and Brianna sat in front, Meg taking notes for a story, Brianna in her first outing as a Mount Mercy Times photographer.

I hope the Times doesn’t mind if I show some her work as a sneak preview of the paper’s next issue. I think she did well—the bar has been set fairly high for your story, Meg.

Well, I’m pretty happy. I would hope that some of the later events in the series that are still up in the air will get organized soon, and the “big” event, the visit of the Vietnam Wall, will for a while suck some of the oxygen from the room. It will be worth it, but it will be a big energy drain.

The next speaker in the series was there--Dr. Marc McCoy talks about "Tinker v Des Moines" at the CRST Graduate Center Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.

The next speaker in the series was there–Dr. Marc McCoy talks about “Tinker v Des Moines” at the CRST Graduate Center Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.

Well, we are off to a good start. Joy and I drew a crowd. The series is underway. I survived speaking about movies in front of Dr. Jim Grove, whose little finger knows more about Hollywood films than my entire cerebral cortex. Dr. Joe Nguyen was there, too—the series theme was his suggestion, and he is the person who worked hardest to bring The Wall to MMU.

Anyway, we have 14 more events in our Fall Faculty Series. See the MMU web site, and come on down. The ride up the river has started. Join us before we get to the Do Lung Bridge.

My wife and daughter attended--wife does what she sometimes does ... objects to me taking her photo. Don't tell her it is on the blog.

My wife and daughter attended–wife does what she sometimes does … objects to me taking her photo. Don’t tell her it is on the blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Mount Mercy

Signs That Summer Is Turning To Fall

Late summer--loud buzzing song during an afternoon of mowing the lawn. I look up and the singer is hanging on a narrow branch of the tulip tree.

Late summer–loud buzzing song during an afternoon of mowing the lawn. I look up and the singer is hanging on a narrow branch of the tulip tree.

The first editorial meeting for the MMU Times, the student newspaper at Mount Mercy University, was today.

Like an inevitable tide, it feels like fall is sweeping in. This week is Iowa Private College Week, a reminder, as if one were needed, that the next semester is basically two weeks away.

Sign in the Mount Mercy Sisters of Mercy U Center advertises 2015 Fall Faculty Series on the Vietnam War.

Sign in the Mount Mercy Sisters of Mercy U Center advertises 2015 Fall Faculty Series on the Vietnam War.

What happened to you, summer of 2015? In weather terms, you were mostly gorgeous, although you also blew in all kinds of tempests in my life. Still, where did the time go?

And yet, it was a thrill to see the students in the newsroom again today, eager young adults ready to take on the world and tell it like it is. An enthusiastic student news staff is an awesome thing, and a pretty good tonic for any regrets at the fading out of summer’s free time.

So I’m back on campus at least four days this week, and no doubt will be working more-or-less full time from now on. I know, I know, those of you with 9 to 5 full-time, year-round work are not exactly dripping with sympathy—although in my defense, 60-hour work weeks are bearing down on me soon enough.

Bee on a cone flower. Lots of these by the side walkway between my driveway and the gate to my back yard--lots of flowers and bees.

Bee on a cone flower. Lots of these by the side walkway between my driveway and the gate to my back yard–lots of flowers and bees.

The oddest thing to me about becoming a professor after a career in the “real world” is how uneven the academic sense of time is. June drifts by in a fog of recovery and resting and lazy days, July the drumbeat starts to pick up, and then, bam, August. And after August, the frantic rush and pressure of the school year.

Yes, I know, longer breaks are a perk of the academic life. But until you’ve taught full time and survive the frenzy of a finals week, you might want to reconsider how green the grass on the other side actually is.

And so, we are on the verge. A new school year dawns. Am I ready? Heck no. But I have a couple of weeks …

Not a spider, so don't freak out. It is a Daddy Long Legs on a marigold. Looks freaky, totally harmless unless your an aphid.

Not a spider, so don’t freak out. It is a Daddy Long Legs on a marigold. Looks freaky, totally harmless unless you’re an aphid.


Filed under Flowers, Mount Mercy

Feeding Cookies to Journalists

I made these, and they are good.

I made these, and they are good.

Bianca took a terrible picture of me, and it is not her fault at all.


Me. Not her fault. Just how I look with my thumb on my nose.

She had a phone and wanted to know if it would work for a newspaper assignment. So we tested it by having her take a photo of me. As I said, not her fault.

It was the first meeting of the semester for the student newspaper. Not all hands were on deck—we may have to revisit the meeting time due to some class conflicts. But a fair numbers of students were there, and we made some good plans.

And I made cookies. A professor with whom I shared cookies wanted to know if my wife had made them—well, she can bake chocolate chip cookies just as easily (and yummy) as I can, but these were Joe cookies.

It made for a nice, calorie-filled, first meeting of the semester.

So, MMU students—the lesson is this. Come to newspaper meetings. Sometimes, there are cookies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Mount Mercy

Signs, Hopeful and Not, at the Dawn of Fall Semester

Headline of the day--100 years ago. WWI poster in MMU library.

Headline of the day–100 years ago. WWI poster in MMU library.

Well, that was an interesting day.

Thursday began with a presentation by Mount Mercy’s President, Laurie Hamen, to faculty and staff, followed by a faculty retreat.

Now, I am not really a meeting fan. But as meetings go, this was surprisingly good. There were two smaller sessions that took up the bulk of the faculty retreat, and I felt I got a lot out of both. For one thing, both involved important staff communicating directly with faculty—and we’ve all long complained that communication is an issue at Mount Mercy. This, I think, was very valuable in bringing us together in a meaningful way.

Not all of the news the president had to deliver was good—still, I think she did very well at delivering it. And the idea of starting the year off with a joint session with all staff and faculty before faculty break off for our retreat—in my opinion, it worked well and is a good tradition to keep going.

Then, I noticed in the library Thursday some really positive signs about death and destruction and a cataclysmic historic mistake. It made me smile.

Not that death and destruction are things that I prefer—but I’ve helped organize a fall series at MMU that reflects on the legacy of World War I at its 100th anniversary, and the library is putting up a poster display on the war.

It creates, partly, a walk-through timeline, with quotes from the era. Nearby is a set of propaganda posters used during the war.

Well, cool.

Books are also part of library display. How quaint. How old school. How appropriate.

Books are also part of library display. How quaint. How old school. How appropriate.

Then the day ended on its most discordant note. A key staff member of the student newspaper quit her post to pursue another opportunity.

Since I don’t have many experienced students on the staff, this puts the paper in a precarious position. The irony is that it has just published what I think is a great Orientation Issue—so right after the good first note, it feels like the band has gone off the cliff.

Well, in any act of destruction there may be opportunity. World War I was indeed a great tragedy—it led to World War II, but it also led to advances in medicine, the arts, entertainment, music, etc.

I don’t think Great Wars are worth it in order to spur human advances, which can take place without war. Even though a Cold War was raging and partly provided the motivation, it’s nonetheless true that getting to the moon in the 1960s didn’t require World War III. As humans, we have to work out ways to motivate ourselves that don’t involve violence against each other.

As ISIS so vividly demonstrated this week, the road of violence is a dark dead end, and we don’t want to go there.

On a much less serious scale, I am desperately seeking ways to cajole MMU students into recognizing the value of their own student news media. I know that too many students these days come from homes that don’t even receive newspapers anymore, so the idea of a campus newspaper may seem quaint.

But it’s the only important student media that there is at MMU. Without it, a key part of campus life, that the university is desperately trying to keep more vibrant, is sorely missed.

MMU students, regardless of your major, I have an important, urgent question for you. And I have to have some hope that you’re mature enough and can be countercultural enough to understand that something vital is happening.

Do you want a student newspaper? Raise your hand now, please.


Lots of events this fall at MMU. Series starts Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Hope to see you there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Facing the Pressure of Impending Spring


Ice melting at the end of a Mount Mercy parking lot March 24. It’s been cold, but the March sun is slowly warming the world.

Not that I want winter to continue forever. In fact, it feels as if it has already.

But spring is bringing with it a seasonal load of stress. The second half of spring semester is normally my most busy time of the school year, and it lasts only a few weeks, but this year feels more stressful than most.

For one thing, I’m behind in my grading. I had hoped to finish grading all speech proposals, group grades, group papers and mid-term exams by Wednesday of spring break. It didn’t happen. I got a substantial amount of grading done, just nowhere near as much as I wanted to get done—not even half. There is still half a week of “break” left, but I’m feeling a bit burdened by the fact that there is only half a week until the rush and crush of the final few weeks of spring semester come crashing down on me.

For another things, and, in terms of my personal stress, probably the bigger thing, there is no editor-in-chief for the “Mount Mercy Times” for 2014-2015 yet. The deadline to apply for the job was Friday before spring break, and we got zero applicants. That has not happened to me before. Most years we get at least two applicants, which means the Board of Student Publications can meet, do interviews and make a choice. A few years there has been only one applicant, and the interview-choice process feels odd and false, but still, the paper has a leader.

I had a student in mind this year, a young woman who I thought would be excellent for the job, but she is in many other activities and decided against taking on this new burden. Although every editor I’ve ever had in 14 years of advising this paper has been glad, in retrospect, that he or she took on that daunting job, it is a daunting job. And the student in question is not holding herself back—she is very busy and aspires to leadership in some other areas. I have to respect her, I think that she made the decision that is best for her.

But I don’t have a plan B. There isn’t another pitcher warming up in the bullpen. Enrollment in my communication and journalism courses has been eroding in recent years, and I’m afraid the bench is getting thinner.

It’s not empty. There are students who have expressed some interest in lower leadership position for the paper. But, so far, none who wants to be the primary leader.

Yeah, I’m a bit bummed. It feels like a valuable brass ring nobody wants to reach for. Students: come on. The most marketable route to a writing career is through this job.

I am at a loss as to what is logical for me to do. I’m facing a battle with no strategy in mind, no tactics to deploy. All I have is a rather lame checklist that I’ll run through: Extend the deadline, contact Kirkwood again to let them know an incoming transfer student has an opportunity, talk to a small handful of students who had been on the staff in the past to see if any are interested—but I have a feeling I’m fishing in a pond where the water has been getting more shallow and the big ones more scarce.

Any great ideas, blog pals? I realize it’s not all me, but somehow feel as if I should have seen this coming and had some grand plan, and frankly I’m not sure what to do.

Other things are gradually grinding at my sense of self, too. I’m not sleeping as much or as well as I ought to be, and feel like I’m slowly growing more and more tired. Other than creeping late middle aged weight, which is difficult to do anything about but the root of a host of potential health problems, I don’t’ feel anything terrible is going on, but the trend isn’t helpful to me as I head into the “busy time.”

There are some good things I’m trying to do at MMU right now. I had the bright idea of staging a campus-wide World War I remembrance series, and the idea has caught on. So, one of the neglected tasks of spring break that I’ll get to someday is writing a proposal for funding for the series. It has to be done by April 1, I’ve never written such a proposal, and I don’t frankly know what to put in it or who to ask for help on it. I suppose when it’s time and I have to produce something the results won’t be that bad, but it’s another nagging thing hanging over my head.

I also suggested that the idea of a video facility be revived at MMU—because we have multiple disciplines such as marketing, communication, art, even education which must use more video projects and have to emphasize video work more in their curriculum, but we don’t have a place, a decently-equipped studio, to do any student video work.

Others who heard me speak on video have liked that idea. “Write something up, Joe,” they say. I don’t know what document I’m writing or for whom, but I know I’m expected to be the one who puts the information together and that it was urgently needed yesterday. And I don’t really even know what information I need or where to get it.


Winter. Followed by spring. It’s normal that when the weather starts to get nice and the first flowers bloom that I take some time to bike or walk and enjoy the sun—but that I also feel guilty taking that time because each year there are too many urgent tasks piling up in my horribly messy office in spring. This is just a particularly bad one.


Hawthorne tree in my yard. It’s  a stump surrounded by young branches–much of it didn’t make it through the winter of 2013. I hope it can revive after the much tougher winter of 2014. We’ll see.

And I feel as if Mother Nature has created that kind of spring of pressure for every living thing in Iowa. There was a story in The Gazette a few days ago about honey bee keepers being worried because the long winter has killed off an unusually large number of bee hives. I know that in my own yard, some bushes may not make it to spring because hungry rabbits or squirrels gnawed off all the bark they could reach as the cold carried on and no new lush green growth was there to eat. I remain concerned that some of my young trees will not revive after this unusually long dormant season. Online, there is anxiety about the Decorah eagles—did the eggs laid this year already freeze and will we have a spring with no baby eagles? Here are some photos I took of some late March snow this week.

I feel as if the whole world in my little corner of the world is on edge. End snow, come warm weather, we can’t take much more.

And I’m ready for warmer weather, for green and the color of crocuses and the happy yellows of daffodils.

But, I’m also not ready. So not ready this year. So dreading May and graduation and the future. I think the feelings are unrealistic—somehow, putting together the WWI thing, while it’s added to my work, has always been a delightful diversion. Somehow, the paper will find its way forward even if I can’t see what the route is at this point. Somehow, as best I can, I’ll cope with the crush of spring classes.

Still, I can’t help hoping that the march of time doesn’t do what it usually does each spring. The final weeks of the semester always seem to come in a headlong rush. I have too much to do, and too much to wish for: A student editor; a more rational schedule to keep up with grading and classes; and a way to deal with registrations, assessment reports, faculty summaries and whole the host of bureaucratic crap that always comes with years end without going crazy.

OK, I’m looking forward to spring. And I’m not, too.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Big Day For The MMU Times

Richard Green, publisher, leads our tour of the new Des Moines Register offices.

Richard Green, publisher, leads our tour of the new Des Moines Register offices.

I will admit that I was getting ready for a letdown. An e-mail had been sent to Mount Mercy’s marketing office earlier this week, listing three students who would win awards at the Iowa College Media Association annual awards ceremony, held tonight, Feb. 6, in Des Moines.

Well, shoot, I thought, when they forwarded the e-mail. Three. We usually get more awards than that. But, I figured, maybe one or two of the students might win two awards, and the staff might be recognized in some category. So, while preparing myself for disappointment in case there was only three awards, I also hoped that maybe we’re really get a few more—five, six or seven awards.

Well. As it turned out, I vastly undershot. We won a record 15 awards, 14 for the newspaper and one for the web site of the Times.

Our Co-Editor, Maddy Jones, won multiple awards in many categories—for writing, photography, headlines. The Editor in Chief of the Times, Thomas Kremer, III; and its Sports Editor, Taylor Foster, also won several awards each.

The paper overall came in third in the General Excellence category, which is rather nice.

The award ceremony came at the end of a long and interesting day, which featured, among other things, a tour of the Des Moines Register’s new offices where the publisher acted as our tour guide, a chance to view the main gubernatorial candidates and several Republicans who are running for the U.S. Senate, to hear from some leading Iowa political reporters and to see some emotionally charged images by a New Orleans photojournalist.

O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa; Michale Wiser, Lee Enterprises; and Kathi Obradovich, Des Moines Register, talk about covering politics in Iowa.

O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa; Michael Wiser, Lee Enterprises; and Kathi Obradovich, Des Moines Register, talk about covering politics in Iowa.

I also ate my first patties at Zombie Burgers. Doubtless, I will be back.

I’m going to write more about ICMA in the future. In particular, I want to ruminate on the tour of the Register, which I found fascinating. For now, here are the MMU Times awards winners:

MMU Times Wins Record 15 ICMA Awards

The Mount Mercy Times won 15 awards, including three first-place awards, seven second-place awards, two third place awards and three honorable mentions at the Iowa College Media Association convention Feb. 6 in Des Moines.

Fourteen of the awards were in the ICMA “Better Newspaper” contest, recognizing the Mount Mercy Times newspaper. The other award was in the Multi-Media competition, which included the Times web site, times.mtmercy.edu.

The 15 awards are by far the most won by Mount Mercy in the annual ICMA media contest. In particular, multiple individual awards were won by Madison Jones, Co-Editor; Taylor Foster, Sports Editor; and TJ Kremer, III, Editor-in-Chief.

The awards are:

  • 1st place, Best News Photo, Taylor Foster.
  • 1st place, Best Feature Photo, Madison Jones.
  • 1st place, Best Profile Story, Madison Jones.
  • 2nd place, Best Editorial Leadership, The Mount Mercy Times editorial board (award for staff editorials).
  • 2nd place, Best Headline Writing, Madison Jones.
  • 2nd place, Best Opinion Writing, Taylor Foster.
  • 2nd place, Best Blog, TJ Kremer, III.
  • 2nd place, Best Coverage of First Amendment Issues, Madison Jones.
  • 2nd place, Best Inside Page Design, Madison Jones.
  • 2nd place, Best Op-Ed Section, The Mount Mercy Times staff, lead writer on section TJ Kremer, III.
  • 3rd place, Best Front Page, The Mount Mercy Times staff.
  • 3rd place, General Excellence, The Mount Mercy Times staff.
  • Honorable Mention, Best Opinion Writing, Madison Jones.
  • Honorable Mention, Best Coverage of First Amendment Issues, TJ Kremer, III.
  • Honorable Mention, Best Sports Story, The Mount Mercy Times staff.
Times staff with 15 awards at ICMA ceremony.

Times staff with 15 awards at ICMA ceremony.


Filed under Uncategorized

#ICMA12 … Day 2 Impressions

MMU students.

Jenny interviews Mariah at ICMA conference. Jenny is MMU Times TV editor.

DES MOINES, Iowa (Feb. 3, 2012)—Blog fans, a quick update before a session I am supposed to moderate.

I’ve had a very interesting 1 ½ days at the Iowa College Media Association convention. One of my overriding impressions is that Mount Mercy needs to invite the Freedom Singers from the First Amendment Center for a program sometime soon. They do a fantastic and eye-opening show that raises lots of issues students to be aware of a talk about.

Plus, they’re just rockin’

Other Impressions from this year’s sessions:

  • We need a more organized on-line social media strategy for the MMU Times. Our web traffic is too low because we don’t give people a reason to go to our site, which tends to follow the paper rather than lead it. And while we do have a Twitter Account and Facebook page, we don’t use them well at all. I’ve added blogging as an assignment in some writing courses—will have to set some Twitter guidelines too, I’m thinking.
  • I’m glad I teach at MMU. The organizer of our newspaper contest could not be at our meeting today because he has to do a presentation to his college’s board of trustees to justify his department’s existence. A double-digit number of faculty has already been laid off and some departments may not survive. It’s a cold world out there.
  • Best ICMA quotes:

–“It’s not just who and what, it’s why and how.” Christine Williams of the Seattle Times on the role of a newspaper journalist.

–“Focus. Focus. Focus. Focus.” What was going through Des Moines Register photographer Julia Thompson’s mind as she took a picture that won a Pulitzer Prize (Williams was on the Pulitzer panel, too).

–GOYAAGKOD. The mail rule of journalism, according to U of I Prof. Stephen Berry (no, not THAT U of I Stephen). It means “get off your ass and go knock on doors.”

–“Experience stands out, but attitude is just as important.” Advice from Julia Thompson of the Des Moines Register on landing that first journalism job.

–“Don’t wait for someone to tell you to get a Twitter account. Do it.” Thomas Ritchie of the Sioux City Journal to students. A new job applicant who has no social media experience has a snowball’s chance in Iowa (little joke there) of landing a news job.

Anyway, I may do a follow up later. Got two sessions to lead. Check in later!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized