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Guest post by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky

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Call it a full court press.


Note: This post appeared originally on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 3 Blog.

A dozen students in a small Iowa town have sued their whiny college for censoring the campus newspaper and firing their adviser.

But they’re not waiting around for a judge to rule – the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, and these (mostly) women want to burn rubber.

So they’re starting their own newspaper.

And you can help.

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Meet these pleasant people.


Two words you rarely see together are polite journalist, but that describes the entire staff of The Calumet, the student-run newspaper at tiny Muscatine Community College. (Enrollment: under 2,000.)

They’ve never ambush-interviewed anyone, asked leading questions, been passive-aggressive, or stretched the truth to make their stories sexier.

No, they just wrote mostly nice and innocuous stories that still got them in serious trouble. Why? No one knows, but it’s both funny and sad.

Here’s an example from editor Mary Mason (top left)…

A building had 13-15 door handles that weren’t working, and students wondered why. So we wrote a story explaining the handles cost several hundred dollars each to fix, and that they had to be specially ordered. The administration felt the story was negative.

It gets stupider…

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Meet a silly censor.

This is Rick Boyer, MCC’s chairman of the math and science department.

A few months ago, The Calumet listed all the faculty who had won grants – not what you’d call hard-hitting investigative reporting. But Boyer sure took it that way.

The harmless and even boring story (which you can read here) ran with smiling photos of the winners, which the school made readily available.

The next day, Boyer called the newsroom and, according to the students’ lawsuit…

asserted that The Calumet did not have the right to use his photograph and that The Calumet must obtain his consent in the future before using his photograph or a photograph of anyone else on campus. Boyer then hung up.

Perhaps Boyer has a body integrity disorder. Or maybe he’s a fugitive from justice. Either would explain why his LinkedIn and his Facebook profiles have no photos of his face. So I’m running Boyer’s photo here, with the hope he’ll call and yell at me, too. (Mr. Boyer: my Skype handle is michaelkoretzky.)

I don’t know why a math professor needs to approve all the photos in a student newspaper, but that’s not as weird as this…

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Meet a sinister censor.

This is LaDrina Wilson, who was MCC’s “equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer” last year.

I’m not exactly sure what her job was, but I do know she wasn’t very busy. How else to explain her investigation into The Calumet’s staff?

Wilson went after the students for a hard-hitting story about…who gets named “Student of the Month.”


The Calumet reported on one woman who was named Student of the Month twice in one year. Who chooses? The Student Government adviser – who just happens to be the woman’s uncle.

That adviser filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against The Calumet’s adviser, James Compton. How that story makes the adviser a discriminating boss is beyond me, but Wilson launched an investigation. MCC even hired a private investigator to interrogate Compton and the students.

“The student journalists felt pressured and intimidated,” the lawsuit says.

Wilson’s investigation eventually concluded the students did nothing wrong by reporting on who gets chosen Student of the Month. Imagine that.

Then Wilson got promoted. She’s now dean of students at another Iowa community college. Which infuriates this guy…


Meet an angry attorney.


This is Frank LoMonte. He runs the Student Press Law Center, which defends high schoolers and college students from hyper-sensitive principals and presidents.

He spent hours investigating MCC. His take…

You can say a lot of bad things about the people who run Muscatine Community College, but one thing you have to give them is: They keep their promises. They promised the editors of The Calumet that if they published a story about how an unhinged MCC administrator threatened the newspaper – for publishing his head-shot photo without his express consent – that the newspaper’s adviser would lose his job. And sure enough, they were good to their word.

LoMonte concludes, “You really can’t get a more open-and-shut First Amendment violation than this one, and yet MCC has decided to waste the taxpayers’ money hiring lawyers to try to defend the indefensible.”

He’s most irate about a nice-guy newspaper adviser losing his job because he stuck up for this students…


Meet the assailed adviser.

This is James Compton. He’s an English professor who advised The Calumet until he was fired – by email from a dean.

“I still have my job there teaching English,” Compton says. He admits to feeling “guilty relief” at no longer working with the student newspaper: “Being questioned by a private eye was never one of my professional goals.”

He’s being replaced with a part-time adjunct professor “who will have no workplace protection,” Compton says. “This breaks a run of full-time teachers as adviser that began when The Calumet started up in 1951.”

Compton is a quiet, laid-back guy who says, “I have no specifics as to what I’ve been guilty of.” His best guess? “I believe anything the students researched and reported – if it wasn’t outright positive – was viewed as an attack on administration and those close to them.”

Still, he saw the students get results. Remember those broken door handles? “They watched maintenance attempt to fix multiple broken door handles in a building the same day another reporter had interviewed the head of maintenance.”

Then there was the urinal…

“Tarsa Weikert saw the head of maintenance replace a broken urinal within hours of her interviewing him. The urinal had been broken for nine months.”

And more importantly, this…

“When there was a report on a parking lot feeling unsafe at night due to darkness, they saw the electric truck appear the day after publication to install new lights.”

Yup, sounds like a rowdy gang of anarchists to me. Now they’re doing this…

While the students wait for their lawsuit to mosey its way through the legal system, they’ve launched their own print newspaper, called The Spotlight.

It debuts next week. Printing the paper will cost around $500, so SPJ Florida and SPJ Region 3 have offered to match any donation up to that amount. That gives The Spotlight enough cash to cover their first two issues, and enough time to sell ads to pay for the issues after that.

Will you donate a dollar or five? Click here…

Unless they’re shy, all donors will be listed on The Spotlight’s website and printed in the dead-tree edition.

Says editor Mary Mason: “Our goal is to get people talking, to start a dialogue.” They already have…

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I give a crap about – and my money to – a dozen courteous reporters in Iowa?”

Frank LoMonte sums it up best…

What we’re seeing at MCC is perhaps the most unsubtle and heavy-handed example of the escalating war on journalism at campuses across America. The message to colleges must be that when you attack a newsroom, you’re kicking a hornet’s nest – you’re not going to be able to control what comes out, and it’s going to sting real bad.

Help us create a buzz, both in and out of Iowa.

Region 7 journalists head to Omaha for professional development

Journalists from across the region traveled to Omaha March 27-28 for the 2015 Society of Professional Journalists Region 7 Spring Conference.

Journalists from across the region traveled to Omaha March 27-28 for the 2015 Society of Professional Journalists Region 7 Spring Conference.

The Society of Professional Journalists Region 7 2015 Spring Conference came to a close Saturday at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Journalists from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska made the trek to Omaha for a weekend of professional development. Organizers held conference sessions about social media, digital, work/family balance and more.

Journalists Mariah Stewart, John Beaudoin, Chase Snider and Ashley Jost discussed their coverage of the protests and police action in Ferguson, Mo. during the SPJ Region 7 conference's keynote presentation.

Journalists Mariah Stewart, John Beaudoin, Chase Snider and Ashley Jost discussed their coverage of the protests and police action in Ferguson, Mo. during the SPJ Region 7 conference’s keynote presentation.

Rob McLean, region 7 director for SPJ, said those who attended the conference had an opportunity to network with colleagues and get a leg-up on their next job hunt.

“One of the best parts about being an SPJ member is the opportunity to make new journalism connections and friends,” McLean said. “As the industry continues to change, those connections can be invaluable when journalists are looking for their next gig.”

The event ended with the regional Mark of Excellence Awards Saturday afternoon, where SPJ recognized the best journalism at the collegiate level within the region.


Journalists enjoy conversation at the SPJ Region 7 Spring Conference meet-and-greet March 27.

Journalists enjoy conversation at the SPJ Region 7 Spring Conference meet-and-greet March 27.

Journalists enjoy conversation at the SPJ Region 7 Spring Conference meet-and-greet March 27.

Journalists enjoy conversation at the SPJ Region 7 Spring Conference meet-and-greet March 27.

Journalists enjoy conversation at the SPJ Region 7 Spring Conference meet-and-greet March 27.

Journalists enjoy conversation at the SPJ Region 7 Spring Conference meet-and-greet March 27.

Marjorie Sturgeon and Jonathan Garcia served on a panel, moderated by Sherrie Wilson, about digital in the newsroom.

Marjorie Sturgeon and Jonathan Garcia served on a panel, moderated by Sherrie Wilson (right), about digital in the newsroom.

Kansas State University’s SPJ chapter bolsters membership one year after relaunching

Image via Jimmy Emerson, DVM/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.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Near the heart of the Midwest there is a university that has one official color: royal purple.

Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, displays a wide variety of school spirit and importance of student progression. Among Division I sports, clubs and other organizations, the Society of Professional Journalists has found a home among the student culture.

Kansas State has 12 SPJ members, which is higher than the previous year. The chapter successfully reopened in 2013 and has been slowly growing during the past year.

The Kansas State SPJ chapter has held different workshops to train students on important software such as Adobe Premier and Adobe Photoshop. Chapter President Morgan Huelsman said the group also held an open event in the spring for journalism students to visit with professionals where they could show their resumes and portfolios while getting one-on-one experience with potential employers.

During the fall of 2014, the chapter held an event featuring Jeffrey Townsend — a designer who works in Hollywood. The event had personal sessions with different organizations on campus as well as some journalism classes.

“We then featured him as a lecture speaker for the entire campus,” Huelsman said. “For this upcoming spring, we are planning on creating at least four more workshops featuring different softwares. We are also heavily helping with a Networking Night for the entire K-State journalism school to have an opportunity to meet employers for internships and job opportunities.”

Huelsman has been president of K-State’s chapter since May. She is graduating in the spring of 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications, while also earning a minor in leadership studies. She is graduating a year ahead of schedule, she said, as this is her last but third year as a wildcat.

“My two main goals are to move to Nashville and work for Country Music Television as an entertainment reporter. My other goal is to work for a large-market television station as a traveling reporter.” Huelsman said.

She joined SPJ to gain more knowledge about journalism — specifically the legal aspects of being a reporter. She also joined to make more connections and network with her peers and potential employers.

“I, alongside some of the other SPJ members, really enjoyed having an opportunity to attend the Fort Riley’s live-firing exercise where we watched soldiers execute practice missions with weapons, military vehicles and live ammunition. We watched what they would be doing during combat,” Huelsman said.

Morgan said the most rewarding thing for her is to see within her organization is that they are always working as a team from scratch.

“We started this organization back up again and every single member has contributed different things to be able to get us to where we are right now,” she said.

Although the chapter is fairly new, Morgan said helping each other and allowing for there to be room for improvement has really made a difference in the chapter’s learning experience together.

Region 7 Career Connections, 11.18.14

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

  • Learfield Communications is looking for an experienced reporter/anchor for Missourinet — a statewide radio network based in Jefferson City, Missouri. Candidates must have a broadcasting background. To apply, contact Ashley Byrd, fellow SPJ member and chief of news services for Learfield News, at or 573-556-1208.
  • KCCI, the Des Moines CBS affiliate, is looking for a weekend morning anchor/reporter. Click here for more.
  • The Waynesville Daily Guide, in Waynesville, Missouri, is looking for a managing editor. Click here for more.
  • Enterprise Publishing, in Blair, Nebraska, is looking to build its design team. Click here for more.

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



Mizzou SPJ hopes to connect students with employers at November event

Photo courtesy of Christina Turner

Photo courtesy of Christina Turner

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.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — One of the largest journalism schools in the Midwest is the University of Missouri, otherwise known as “Mizzou.” With many successful journalists graduating from the university, it has become a popular place for aspiring reporters.

Mizzou started a Society of Professional Journalists chapter in 2000, and has slowly but surely built a large membership.

Chapter President Christina Turner said the Mizzou chapter has 24 official undergraduate members, 10 of whom are new to the organization. She said the chapter also has several graduate students attend meetings and support events. The chapter also has about two-dozen undergrad students who are not official card-carrying members of the national organization, Turner said.

Turner said she is hopeful they will recruit more members throughout the semester.

During the fall semester, the chapter held two get-to-know-you SPJ events.

  • A free speech event, where people could write whatever they wanted on a big poster board around campus to celebrate First Amendment rights
  • A profit-share event with a Yogoluv establishment downtown.

The Mizzou chapter now plans to hold an event in November where journalism employers can tell students what they’re looking for in future interns or new hires after graduation. This event will include a speed-dating component, where students can spend five minutes with each person from each organization discussing their specific interests.

Turner said she is also working on getting the event catered by a restaurant.

For the spring, the chapter is working on bringing in guest speakers from out-of-town to discuss emerging issues within the journalism school, documentary journalism and multimedia journalism.

“More and more, every emphasis area within the journalism school is multimedia, so we want to bring in professionals who use all these different platforms and skills to show that it is necessary to get a job in journalism these days.” Turner said.

Turner said Mizzou is launching a documentary journalism emphasis area in 2015, and the SPJ chapter is working on bringing in documentary filmmakers to discuss how documentary film and journalism intersect.

Christina Turner

Photo courtesy of Christina Turner

Turner said she has been president of the Mizzou chapter since January 2014 and will transition out of presidency in January 2015. Her future career plans are to work in television news after she graduates in May 2015.

“At this point, there are opportunities both behind and in front of the camera throughout the country and in Europe, so the specifics of what I will do and where I’ll end up are wide-open,” Turner said.

Turner joined SPJ because it seemed like a good way to meet journalism professionals and learn what the media business was really like. Her favorite moments of being a member of SPJ have been the Excellence in Journalism conferences in Anaheim and Nashville, as well as the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

As for advice on how to improve student interest, Turner believes the regional conferences haven’t been as well-advertised to student chapters in the past.

“Making sure every student chapter is aware of the conference would help. On our chapter end, we’ll be working on getting as much of that funded by the university as possible,” Turner said.

The sponsorship would help get more SPJ members interested and able to attend the conference.

To keep up with what’s happening at the University of Missouri, follow Christina on Twitter at @CSTurner1 and visit Mizzou SPJ’s website.

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.


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