Where’s the news in the newspaper, and other related gripes

I rolled over one recent morning and explained to my wife, “I just had the weirdest dream.

“I dreamed we moved back to Jefferson. And I couldn’t decide whether to call all of my old teachers by their first names.”

Turns out, it wasn’t a dream.

We really did move back to Jefferson.

A year ago, I started the month of October as a resident of Ohio — the same way I’d started the last 13 or 14 Octobers.

I’d been a reporter all that time at the Springfield News-Sun, and planned to stick with it despite a corporate culture that increasingly seemed to change direction at a pace that really rubbed my obsessive-compulsive tendencies the wrong way.

My wife was a lead preschool teacher, we had a 30-year mortgage to our names and our son was a year away from starting kindergarten.

In short, we weren’t looking to move.

But I ended October with a new job — as editor of The Jefferson Herald. (However, we wouldn’t move for another month.)

On Oct. 1, 2013, if you would have told me that I’d soon be in charge of my hometown newspaper, I would’ve encouraged you to lay off the magic mushrooms.

I had no clue that Ann Wilson and her son, Doug Burns — the people Rick Morain entrusted the Bee & Herald to upon his retirement — were out looking for an editor to lead the Jefferson paper into the future.

A freak run-in at the Jefferson Matters: Main Street office between Doug and my mom, Main Street volunteer Deb McGinn, began to align the stars and the planets.

My mom merely complimented Doug on the new look of The Herald — with its emphasis on larger color photos and fewer stories on the front page.

It could have ended right there with a simple, “Thanks,” from Doug.

But Alan Robinson, the local Main Street program director, peered over his glasses while working and commented, “Oh, she’s interested in this kind of stuff because her son works for a newspaper.”

It was all just dumb luck.

Four days later, I had the job.

The 14 years I spent on the staff of the Springfield News-Sun, a daily paper, prepared me well for this next endeavor.

I learned how a paper can (and should) be designed and what constitutes a story.

And now I’d get to bring that knowledge home.

The result is what you’re holding — or looking at on your iPad. (And with that said, I hope to God in advance we don’t have some kind of printing error this week.)

Subscriptions are up. Advertising is up.

For that, I say thank you.

But there are always bound to be haters.

And just last week, I took a call from a lady — a well-known community “advocate” — who scoffed, “I wouldn’t call what you put on the front page ‘news.’ ”

Ask the 13 Greene County men who were able to take an Honor Flight, thanks to our coverage, about the newsworthiness of their plight. Before we got involved, local veterans were out of luck, told there was no money coming in from Greene County to send them on Honor Flights.

We also brought to light the stray animal problem that has forced the sheriff’s office to divert manpower. And we asked whether Greene County, as the state’s lead Home Base Iowa community, is prepared to provide the kind of medical and mental health care that our new veteran residents will require.

Doug Burns, although he lives and primarily works in Carroll, played a major role in both Greene County becoming the first Home Base Iowa community and the county’s successful effort to land a casino.

Disregard the conspiracy theory about a Carroll “takeover” of Jefferson’s paper.

We’re in charge of our own destiny here.

And, besides, you might be interested to know that at one point long ago, when the Bee & Herald were both “your locally owned news source,” The Jefferson Bee was actually co-owned by a group of Las Vegas investors.

Then, of course, there have been personality profiles — my specialty.

Maybe you’re learning something new about someone you’ve supposedly known your whole life. Or perhaps you’re gaining an appreciation for someone who left Greene County to make a mark on the world.

No, The Herald of 2014 isn’t The Herald we knew in 1994.

I was fortunate to find two designers, Rob Strabley and Ben Ure, who were sympathetic to my desire for the paper to evolve.

Plus, we all like comic books.

It’s our sole mission to engage you and even entertain you one day out of the week.

My “Local Focus” section, which has drawn some ire, is actually designed to zero in on community events and other tidbits, and present them in a convenient format. Before, the ice cream socials and the Extension classes would have been scattered all throughout the paper.

Some things have fallen by the wayside, like our correspondents who reported the “news” of Adaza, Greenbrier and the like.

Who called on whom Sunday, who had pie at who’s house last Tuesday and what’s going on at that particular correspondent’s individual church no longer passes as news — rather, it’s a Facebook status update.

I’m awfully proud of the paper we’re putting out.

The Herald isn’t just a newspaper anymore — it’s a celebration of Greene County, with a deep respect for the past and an eye to the future.

Small-town weekly newspapers have long had a reputation for being unintentionally funny.

We all live in a small town, and most of us cherish that way of life.

But we don’t have to think small.

Let’s start to think of our paper as a big picture window that looks out on a scenic landscape.

And if you just want to find out when the pancake breakfast is, simply turn to Page 7.

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161