Tag Archives: student newspaper

Where Are They Now?

Times staff

As Ben and Biz confer in the background, Cindy is ready to snap photos at Times open house.

It was fun at the Times today, seeing so many guests in the office.

The student newspaper at Mount Mercy University held an open house today, Oct. 12. Among the attendees—sadly not always at the same time so many of them missed each other—were Times staff members of years past. The MMU graduates include a future novelist who is planning to enter the University of Iowa’s esteemed Writer’s Workshop, the editor of a local community newspaper, and a video/multi-media coordinator of a large local Protestant church.


Emily, at right, was one of the returning MMU grads to the Times open house.

A diverse group, but one thing I think they all have in common was summed up today at the open house by Emily Speight. Emily was the second editor of the weekly Times. When she came to Mount Mercy, she was unsure of joining the paper, but in the end she did, and became its editor.

As she said today, when she is at work and something happens, she sometimes thinks “that reminds me of what happened one time at the Times.” It’s much rarer that she thinks “that reminds me of a time in class when …”

In other words, at least for those who seek to enter media or writing careers, time spent on a student newspaper staff is not the frosting on the cake. It’s the cake, the plate the cake is on, the fork to eat the cake with, the ice cream and chocolate sauce and spoon—plus the cold milk to wash it all down. It’s the most intense formative experience of a young communicator’s early career.

I always tell students—and I mean it seriously even if I don’t believe it’s 100 percent true—that I can predict which students will actually become journalists or public relations professionals.

It’s the ones who step forward and lead the student newspaper.

After all, for PR and journalism students, the MMU Times is “the choir.” It would be just silly to study music at MMU and NOT be in the choir. It would be strange to attempt a Speech-Drama minor and never join the Drama Club.

And young people who are serious about communication careers join the paper. No excuses, no “I’m too busy”—if you have the fire in the belly, no obstacle will keep you away.

Now, the reason I concede this fairly valid general rule is not 100 percent accurate is twofold. First, while merely joining the paper puts a student in a position where she might succeed in a communication career, both luck and determination are also required. Some of the students who do other things besides communication with their lives make rational decisions about the kind of life and career that makes sense to them—and I’m totally on board with that. Yet, I don’t think even those who choose to change career paths regret their Times time, as organizational skills, leadership opportunities, interviewing practice and writing experience help just about any person in any career path.

Secondly, there are other routes. Some talented English majors who avoid the Times and the MMU communication program, for example, end up in the PR or journalism worlds.

But the general rule is accurate enough, and works well enough, that its implications are clear.

Are you a student at MMU? Do you want to be a writer, a real writer, a person who actually makes a career out of creating communications?

Then join the Times. Sure, write for Paha too, get that English degree, act in several plays—the Times is not the only venue that can develop your communication talents.

But, at MMU, and I suspect at most colleges, the student newspaper is the center, the nexus, the crux of the experience for the few who will join that unique band of brothers and sisters—the actual writers. Not the writer-want-to-bes, but the ink-stained wretches who don’t just think it, but do it.

I am reminded of an excellent post by a blogger I respect. She was talking about the writing habit and how important it is to just write if you’re going to write. To sort of paraphrase her point, bus drivers never complain of “driver’s block.” They just get into that big box and go.

Writers? Faced with writer’s block? Climb into the Times and fire up that verbal part of your brain. No hesitation, just the open information highway and you with your hands on the wheel of a media vehicle that can take you were you want to go. Writing? Photography? Video? Audio? Podcast? You decide the route, and you can get there from here.

But only if you join, only if you invest a part of yourself, only if you take the time and make the commitment. The time is now. Get with the Times.


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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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