Archive for October, 2014

Finding antiquity in Manhattan, Kansas

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Manhattan, Kansas, was the last place I expected to find a Terracotta Warrior. But sure enough, one of the sculptures was behind a glass case at Kansas State University.

I made the trek down to KSU last week to kick off a series of pizza visits at universities within Region 7. For all the journalism student groups that will have me, I’ll bring a few pizzas and chat about the awesomeness that is SPJ.

KSU has a fantastic chapter, filled with brilliant young journalists who seem anxious to begin their careers. I hit on three key points that I hope every college journalist in the region knows.

  • The Mark of Excellence Awards submission season begins Nov. 3! The Mark of Excellence Awards is SPJ’s college journalism awards. We recognize the best of the best in the region, as well as nationally. If you’re a journalism student or know journalism students, please encourage them to submit their best work from the past year.
  • The SPJ Region 7 Conference is set for March 27-28 in Omaha, Nebraska. This conference is a great opportunity for professionals and students alike to network, hone their craft and explore a great town. Be sure to save the date!
  • Now is the time to start applying for summer internships! Newsrooms are already beginning to think about who they will bring into the fold. Want to have your resume stand out, send it to me! I’m more than happy to take a look at any journalism student’s resume and cover letter.

KSU’s SPJ chapter isn’t the only student group with whom I will visit this year. Here’s a schedule of where you can catch me in the coming months.

  • Nov. 3: Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska), meeting with staffers at The Creightonian
  • Nov. 17: Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa), meeting with Drake’s SPJ chapter
  • November (TBA): University of Nebraska – Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska), meeting with students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Do you know of a student journalism group that would like me to visit, pizzas in tow? Send me a note! I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.

Region 7 Career Connections, 10.28.14

Each week, The Heartland Beat will post four journalism jobs from within the region.

Check back next week for a new list of journalism jobs from around the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 7!

Region 7 Career Connection, 10.20.14

Each week, The Heartland Beat will post four journalism jobs from within the region.

Check back next week for a new list of journalism jobs from around the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 7!

Three alt weeklies bow out in one week


Map key: Red – Closed in 2014; Purple – Closed in 2013; Yellow – Closed in 2012; Green – Closed in 2008

When considering a journalism career’s progression, I like to think of the news career ladder in terms of the Daily Planet.

You have your four basic news staffers: the Jimmy Olsen, who is wet behind the ears, has zero idea what he’s doing but is just excited to work in a newsroom.

The Clark Kent, who is a moderately competent reporter with a few years under his belt — but he’s not going to win any Pulitzers.

Then you have the Lois Lane. She’s the cream of the crop in the journalism world. She will expose corruption, win awards for her reporting and protect democracy with every word she writes.

Finally, you have the Perry White — the cynical, old-school journalist who is a newsroom leader, knows the strengths and weaknesses of the journalists in his employ and uses that knowledge to produce an amazing news product.

To get to the Perry White stage of journalism, everyone have to start as Jimmy Olsen. My Jimmy Olsen stage wasn’t with a major daily newspaper like the Planet or even a broadcast outlet.

I started as a stringer for C-VILLE Weekly in Charlottesville, Virginia. My few clips there, which were edited with an expert and heavy hand, helped me gain admission to the University of Nebraska’s graduate journalism program. While in that program, I interned for another alternative weekly — The Reader in Omaha, Nebraska.

For many journalists, the alt weeklies are a place they can learn the ins-and-outs of news while still not quite growing up. The alt weekly staffers are professionals through and through, with the energy and diligence of a German Shepherd puppy tasting bacon for the first time.

The world lost three alt weekly newspapers last week. The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Providence Phoenix and Metro Pulse all came to an end.

In 2014 alone, I’ve counted five alt weeklies closing their doors. The Grid in Toronto and Real Detroit Weekly also came to their own ends.

I’ve counted at least 13 alt weeklies that have closed since 2008, including Boston Phoenix, Urban Tulsa Weekly and Honolulu Weekly. Alt weeklies clearly are not immune to the same struggles as its newspaper cousins that publish daily.

The news ecosystem is different from the days when the alts thrived. Like any legacy media product, they must evolve to survive in this new world. I hope the current generation of alt weekly staffers, freelancers and interns aren’t the last to sharpen their teeth in that journalism arena.

University of Nebraska alumnus’ San Francisco Bay Guardian shutters


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Journalism saw a dark day this week when the San Francisco Bay Guardian announced its current owners would publish its final issue on Thursday.

The situation is heartbreaking. Gone is another publication with a storied past that did a lot of good for the San Francisco community and journalism.

You might ask, “Why is McLean discussing the Bay Guardian? San Francisco is thousands of miles away from SPJ’s Region 7.”

Fair argument, I grant you – but the paper had strong ties to the Midwest. The paper’s founder, Bruce B. Brugmann, is a graduate of the University of Nebraska.

The Columbia Journalism Review profiled Brugmann back in 2012, citing his experience with the The Daily Nebraskan.

“Born in Rock Rapids, IA, Brugmann went to the University of Nebraska hoping to be a hoops star, but wound up at the student newspaper. He met Jean, his future wife, as an undergraduate, and together they hatched the idea of someday publishing a weekly. Brugmann says he was impressed that The Daily Nebraskan, which only came out three times a week, still managed to upset the university power brokers.”

But there seems to be hope for the Bay Guardian. reported Tuesday that the Bay Guardian’s owners could potentially sell the paper.

I hope news of the paper’s death is greatly exaggerated.

Region 7 Career Connection, 10.13.14

Each week, The Heartland Beat will post four journalism jobs from within the region.

Check back next week for a new list of journalism jobs from around the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 7!

Region 7 Career Connection, 10.06.14

Each week, The Heartland Beat will post four journalism jobs from within the region.

Check back next week for a new list of journalism jobs from around Region 7!

Drake University SPJ chapter set for another successful year

Drake University (via Picture Des Moines/Flickr)

Drake University (via Picture Des Moines/Flickr)


By Lauren Whan

Each month, Lauren Whan, Region 7 assistant for campus affairs, will take a look at a university chapter from across the region.

Tours, resume critiques and discussions are all in store for Society of Professional Journalists members at Drake University this year.

“It’s been the best recruitment that I’ve been a part of since becoming president,” said chapter president Stephanie Kocer.

The Drake University SPJ chapter has nearly 30 members recently inducted 20 new members.

Drake SPJ goes on tours, brings in speakers to its meetings and hold professional development sessions, such as resume workshops and activity fairs.

The chapter said Des Moines, Iowa, is a hub for media businesses and it has been fortunate to be able to tour a lot of news corporations.

“We’ve been to The Des Moines Register, Meredith Corporation and Iowa Public Radio just to name a few,” Kocer said. “Our members are always excited about the tours. We are also very lucky to have professionals from the Des Moines community come into our meetings to talk with us.”

Chapter members have had everyone from newspaper reporters to PR professionals come and talk with their members.

Kocer said the SPJ members benefit from the networking they do with the journalism community in Des Moines.

“Our chapter is always striving to give members opportunities and I think we succeed really well at it,” Kocer said. “For the last two or three years we have been awarded with a best chapter award.”

Drake SPJ said it hopes to start setting up tours for the rest of the semester and figure out who they might want to talk to in the community. One of its goals for this semester is to put together a resume workshop. Drake’s journalism school usually hosts Journalism Days, which is a week-long event. 

“I’m also hoping to get some new T-shirts ordered this semester, because who doesn’t love that?” Kocer said.

Kocer has been president for one year. She said she joined SPJ as a freshman because she wanted to get more involved with the J-school.

“I joined the executive board my sophomore year as a recruitment chair and really fell in love with how much people enjoy SPJ and how much networking and professionalism we get to practice,” Kocer said. “Being president of SPJ is one of my proudest accomplishments. Not just because it goes on my resume, but more importantly because I’ve been able to help fellow members connect with their community and become better journalists.”

As a senior, Kocer said she hopes to enjoy her last year at Drake to the fullest and continue to connect and form SPJ friendships.

To keep up with what’s happening at Drake University, follow Stephanie Kocer on Twitter at @StephKocer and Drake SPJ at @DrakeSPJ.


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