Tag Archives: “Mount Mercy Times”

ICMA Convention, the First Day

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DES MOINES, Iowa, 8:14 p.m.: This will be brief, as there is one more program I am going to tonight at the ICMA convention in Des Moines.

It’s been a pretty good day, despite a foggy start the traveling weather was good, and the Mount Mercy Times did win a number of awards:

  • Honorable Mention, Best Opinion Writing, Ryan Pleggenkuhle
  • 2nd Place, Best Explanatory or Interpretive News Story, Cynthia Petersen
  • 3rd Place, Best Explanatory or Interpretive News Story, Jennifer Koehighain
    4th Place, Best Multimedia slide show, Cindy Petersen, Mariah Cary
  • 2nd Place, Best Online Video, Sophia Fuchs.
  • 2nd Place, Best Blog, Cynthia Petersen
  • 3rd Place, Best Blog, Jennifer Koenighain
  • 4th Place, Best Blog, Jenna Marzen

The food has been good, as we had a mentor luncheon where we enjoyed the company of Lyle Muller, editor of The Gazette. Later, we walked in pleasant warm temperatures about six blocks to tour a radio station, where we learned the dress code is a bit lax in radio.

I really enjoyed remarks by three Pulitzer Prize winners in the afternoon, and may blog more about that later (left my notes upstairs, free Internet is only in the hotel lobby, so no more detail tonight).

Supper was scavenging snacks in the trade show room, but they were plentiful and I think even the students were satisfied.

Well, more later from your Des Moines correspondent!


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So Long Lundy, It’s Been Good

Empty MMU Times office

The old office, looking bare. Will become a faculty office. Guess it was a bit small for us.

Well, for the first time in my time at Mount Mercy University, the Mount Mercy Times is changing location. This week, the office computers and furniture were carted off.

With the construction of the University Center, the Lower Lundy area where we were located is going from activities and meeting rooms to classrooms and faculty offices.

I am a little sad to see us go. Our small Lundy office was cozy and is full of good memories. We been through a whole generation of eMacs and into the iMac world. A decade’s worth of Times editors and staff have felt exhilaration and heartache. Most, I think, are grateful for the experience and enjoyed their time at the Times, although there a few cases where a student chose or had to leave.

So it goes. I’ll miss our small space, but look forward to where we are going.

The U is putting in a new Mac lab, which, I hope, will strengthen both our Graphic Arts and Multimedia Design majors. There is a videotaping room on the other side of the Times office, that, I hope, we start using early and often. (Videotaping, what an old-school term. What should it be called? Videodigiting?)

Well, so long Lundy. Hello library. May our new and larger office reflect continued growth and progress at the MMU Times.

The old couch

Most furniture made the move, not our old office couch. So long, student sleep sofa!

New office

Lot of unpacking and settling in to do, but our new space is bigger, freshly painted, ready to go!

New walk.

New sidewalk between Warde and Basile. Not related to new newspaper office, but another change I like. Not as big as new U Center that will open, but still--I won't be tromping through MMU gardens to get from my office to Basile when I'm in a hurry anymore, and that's nice 🙂


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Hooray! MMU Times Earns 11 ICMA Awards!

Times students at ICMA

Feb. 3, Times students with ICMA awards: Biz Brumm, Campus Editor; Ryan Pleggenkuhle, Managing Editor; Jennifer Koenighain, Design Editor; Erich Pilcher, Multi-Media Producer; Jason Novak, Sports Editor and Cynthia Petersen, Editor-in-chief.

Or, an even dozen, if you count the headline-writing award a staff member earned while he was at Kirkwood.

Anyway, the ICMA award ceremony Feb. 3 in Des Moines during the annual Iowa College Media Association Convention, hosted by the Iowa Newspaper Association at their convention, turned out to be a good night for the Times. The Mount Mercy University students won 11 awards in the ICMA Better Newspaper contest, which I think is a record for the Times.

The Grand View Views won best newspaper overall in a point-based contest that relies on the category awards, but I think if we improve next year, we may have a shot at that award, too.

Anyway, here are awards the Times won:

First Place, Best Editorial Leadership for staff editorials.
First Place, Best Blog, by Zach D’Amico.
First Place, Best Explanatory/Interpretive News Story, by Cynthia Petersen.
First Place, Best Opinion Writing, by Zach D’Amico.
Second Place, Best Profile Story, by Brian Heinemann.
Second Place, Best Review, by Erich Pilcher.
Second Place, Best Blog, by Cynthia Petersen.
Third Place, Best Sports Feature, by Brian Heinemann.
Third Place, Best Opinion Writing, by Cynthia Petersen.
Third Place, Best Blog, by Ivory Davis.
Honorable Mention, Best Review, by Brian Heinemann.

D’Amico wrote a column last fall about his father’s deteriorating health. Sadly, his father passed on this January, but D’Amico’s column, and his blog, were both judged the best student newspaper writing in the state of Iowa in their respective categories by ICMA. “Good work” seems like a bittersweet sentiment under the circumstance, but is none-the-less true. D’Amico did outstanding writing as a staff writer, and we’re glad he’s joining our staff on a more regular basis as a Special Correspondent this spring.

Heinemann and Petersen are last year’s and this year’s editors-in-chief of the Times. Pilcher is our multi-media executive producer, and should be key to our efforts this spring to beef up our web site.

By the way, this year’s managing editor, Ryan Pleggenkuhle, earned a headline writing award for the Communiqué at Kirkwood. We’re glad to have Ryan at MMU this year. Ryan won third place for best sports headline.

I’m a little surprised that certain other stories did not earn any awards, and we received no recognition at all for page design. I’ve seen other Iowa college newspapers, and I’m not sure why that’s true, except that maybe they’ve done a few special pages that stand out.

But, that’s looking back. What’s the message looking ahead?

I’m hoping we can make more progress this spring semester and next year on one of our ongoing issues—a need to improve photography. Images are very important—and, I think photo skills display a visual sense that most journalists need these days. Yes, I think there will always be a place for great writers, but a writer who can craft good layouts, shoot decent video, design both print and web pages and shoot compelling still pictures—well, that generalist, whether she ends up in journalism or PR, has more of a future in our evolving communication environment.

That’s the message, kids. Don’t be good at just one thing—you have to be a triple or quadruple threat.

The other takeaway, for me, is that we must fix the sorry state of our newspaper web site and do more multi-media reporting.

But, note the blog near sweep of all the awards. The ICMA judge wrote “pay attention to what the ‘Mount Mercy Times’ is doing with blogs.” We did very well in the fall, which earned us the ICMA honors, and now we have to energize and keep up the good blog work—and promote the blogs.

That and our continued excellence in editorial commentary are points to be proud of.

Eleven is a nice number of awards—more than most (or, possibly, all but one) other newspapers earned. Good work, Times staff present and past.


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Dr. Blomkamp, I Presume


A photo of no bird

Small birds were gathered in this tree on this cold, wet day. Really, they were. Except when I tried to photograph them. One of life's near misses, something Dr. Blomkamp would understand.


The Nov. 10 edition of the Mount Mercy Times had a lot of good material in it—a small, core group of students works very hard on the paper which has been well done this semester.

But, that edition also had Dr. Blomkamp.

In a feature story about genetically altered food, one of the faculty members who is extensively quoted is the chair of our math and science department.

In real life, his name is Dr. Neil Bernstein. The story, however, quotes a “Neil Blomkamp.”

Well, my sister had to correct the spelling of “cupola” on my recent blog post. I had typed “copula,” which Word had accepted because it is a word. It’s either some sort of linking word in linguistics or a way of analyzing multiple variables in statistics. A copula, however, is not a cupola, and a cupola is what Warde Hall has on top of it and what I was writing about.


Another no bird photo

A tulip tree leaf. Near where there were some birds. Really, I'm serious. All scared off by Dr. Blomkamp, I suppose.


The feature writer in this issue of the Times is one of our better volunteer journalists, and I hope he doesn’t get discouraged by this faux pas. At least he was consistent in the story, and the mysterious Dr. Blomkamp is quoted throughout. That’s not as bad as it could be—sometimes, inexperienced writers have characters and names that shift in a story, and I would rather see a consistent error like this. And it’s not all the writer’s fault—both the editors and I should have caught the mistake before the mysterious Dr. Blomkamp appeared in print.

Yikes. Life can be full of near misses. I was trying to shoot pictures of gathering birds out my home office window this morning, but they apparently can see me as well as I can see them, and the little dinosaurs gathered when I sat down and fled when I stood to point a camera at them.

My most embarrassing moment as a journalist was working in Missouri’s Capitol in Jefferson City, covering testimony from the University of Missouri President before a Senate funding committee. I don’t recall the details—I don’t remember his name after all these years—but I got a vowel wrong in the President’s name. Lucky for me a copy editor caught the error—yet, you don’t want to the reporter who has to explain to an editor why a name—the name of the University President, for crying out loud—is wrong in your story.

Live and learn. Journalism is full of tricky little facts and attending to those details is a lesson for writers and editors (and advisors).

I do say, however, that despite the embarrassment of this obvious error, the name “Blomkamp” appeals to me. Blomkamp, what kind of a character would a man with this name be?

I imagine a cable TV police drama where our sexy but single female chief investigator doesn’t get along with our sexy but single forensic scientist despite the ongoing and overt sexual tension, and the goofy partner of the investigator is a curmudgeon of an older cop who is marking time before retirement and remembers (loudly, frequently and for mostly for clumsy comedic effect) rotary phones. His name? Sgt. Neil Blomkamp.

Or, an NBC Thursday night sitcom set in an urban New Jersey shopping mall, where a sexy but single bookstore owner struggles to compete with the chain box stores, on-line shopping and the vicissitudes of the cranky, gay, officious mall manager: Lance Neil Blomkamp.

Or a movie romantic comedy. She’s a great ape researcher following a tribe of Bonobos through a jungle in Kenya, and is paired with a slightly older, yet ruggedly handsome, genetics expert who seems rude, stand-offish, cranky and mean. Of course, she will get a bit drunk, kiss him one night, reject him the next day, become separated, but in the end, she will walk off into the jungle hand-in-hand with her true soul mate as the happy Bonobo tribe joyously dances about and slings poop.

The love of her life?

Dr. Blomkamp, I presume.


Bonobo kiss

Of course, a happy ending, a Bonobo kiss. Flickr picture from courtneyBolton's photo stream.


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When Fall Rolls Around

Mount Mercy University Times Web Site

We'll have to come up with a new online flag, since we aren't using the "dragon flag" this year, but the site already had coverage of this year's first big story--as Mount Mercy became a university.

At the end of the school year, it’s pretty normal for student journalists to be pretty frazzled.

It has been a long slog through weekly deadlines. Add n the stress of hearing complaints all the time for trivial errors, but not so many compliments for what you do well, and the experience of a student journalist can be difficult.

Yet, at the beginning rather than the end, I have the gut feeling that we’ll have a pretty good year a the “Mount Mercy Times.”

Early signs? The editors were mulling over today the shape of the first issue, which will be published next week. After considering the Mount Mercy University transition stories, a fairly vibrant set of sports stories, articles by editors and students in MMU fall writing classes—the editors agreed to put out 16 pages.

Well. The paper is usually 12 pages and sometimes 8, but rarely 16.

It’s a lofty goal. But there is lots of “cool” stuff. Tom has done about half a dozen versions of the flag, and every time he starts tweaking, it gets better. The latest version today was a pretty darn sexy beast, I think, and I am anxious to see it in print.

Erich and Sophia are already pumping out video news reports. We don’t print a paper until next week, but the paper feels as if it has already “arrived.”

And Cindy has already “published” an issue online. You can see it here. It’s six pages of U transition coverage, and yet we’ll have new material next week on the same topic.

There is a downside—due to scheduling conflicts, the paper cycle didn’t get as far down the road today as usual, and the editors plan to work on it Sunday.

I’m a bit old-fashioned—I don’t like weekend shifts of this nature—but, everybody seems really cool with it. The attitudes of Cindy, Bizz, Ryan, Tom, Jennifer, Amy, Jason—they seemed really upbeat today.

May it be a good year. I think it will.

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Last Times at the Times

It always feels a little odd when the school year comes crashing to an end—like a juggler unexpectedly interrupted.

Except the plates don’t come crashing down on the stage. The oddly-clad students in their totally unstylish giant black dresses merely parade across the stage, hoping not to trip.

Today is the final production cycle for the Mount Mercy Times. It’s noon, and most of the editors are at lunch, but they’re planning a 20-page issue, the largest of the year.

And they don’t even seem fazed. That’s good.

Sept. 9, 2009--first of the Kayla covers of the year.

It will give me more to read on Monday. That’s not quite as good, but on balance, it’s still a positive.

I’ve seen the editor’s draft of his column for next week, and he has some very kind words for me, which I appreciate.

The final staff editorial, written by our staff iconoclast and curmudgeon, is heartfelt and well done.

Can’t wait t see what magic the student have in store. While not all plans went according to, and while not every moment was a good one, the year was fantastic.

Shown is the cover from the first issue of the year. The world didn’t end due to H1N1, but the first cover was the start of an interesting year.


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Life and Times of a Student Newspaper

Sometimes, the simple things seem so hard.

April 21 Mount Mercy Times

Front page of April 21 Times. Students aim for a "magazine" look, rather than a traditional newspaper page, and the "Music Fest" graphic was created by our photo editor.

For example, the” Mount Mercy Times” recently ran a letter to the editor that took the newspaper to task because, as the official newspaper at a Catholic college, it does not run ads for Planned Parenthood. Not to get into the specifics of that debate, but publishing the letter sparked some reaction, as you can imagine. One of the reactions was an extremely long, point-by-point rebuttal from a woman in Illinois.

The rebuttal would easily have taken more than a page of newspaper space.

But, space is cheap online. I suggested to the editor that he post the letter. He agreed, and “teased” it in a refer on page 2—but the letter has not yet been posted.

Of course, it’s hard enough just putting out a paper. All the multi-media stuff, the Twitter feed, the Facebook page, student blogs (which seem to languish after a short burst of activity) and updating a web site—the brave new world is not all that easy to manage.

And my current team of students is pretty good and pretty willing to try new things—hence, at least a few original video “Times TV” reports this spring.

But it seems to take so long to post things. Video that should be on line hours after being shot may languish for a week or more. We never did manage to post a play preview video, and, as far as I know, have not yet posted any videos “teased” in this week’s paper.

Well, it took several years for the Times to go from a twice a month paper to a weekly. So I need some patience. But it feels like the media world won’t stand still and wait. It would be better to be a bit more nimble.

Still, the paper has been really cool this year. Brian and company should justifiably be proud. Note the front page—it’s not a poster for the event (although it could become one) it’s the newspaper’s design. Good work, Tom.

See more of the Times here.

Now, back to work for me. Can’t complain too much about students not getting stuff done when I have a backlog of grading to attend to.

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