So many stories …


Obligatory selfie at the Home on the Range cabin, Smith County, Kansas.

Recently, I made a big career decision. I moved back into the newsroom. And I’m not regretting it one bit.

Today was a great day. It was hot and windy, but that’s Kansas for you. And photographer Jolie and I were there to tell the story of people telling a uniquely Kansas story.

We were at the site of the Home on the Range cabin in Smith County, the site where Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem about his beloved homestead. A Wichita group is there this week to film a documentary about how those words became the Western anthem we know today.

My dilemma, every reporter’s dilemma, is that there are so many stories to tell, but so little time and space to do it in. Even with the seemingly infinite internet, there’s only so much you can do.

It’s difficult sometimes to decide what fits with the angle I’m taking on the story and how much I need to write. I’ve always written long stories. I love to tell stories. But this day and age, with our ever-shortening attention spans, it’s a challenge for me to keep it short.

It’s kind of agonizing for me to not include everyone in a project like this, people who no doubt feel they put their hearts and souls into it. I would like to recognize them all, to include that one little nugget of a great quote they gave me. But sometimes it just doesn’t fit.

There was the woman who considers herself an “amateur writer” who felt compelled to write a movie script after reading a local historian’s account of the song. The stories of the guy who grew up near the cabin and whose father grew up nearby and whose mother taught in one-room schoolhouses. The director who has great desire to tell the stories of Kansas that many Kansans aren’t even familiar with. His wife, who is an accountant in her other life and craft services and first aid on the set. The hair and makeup woman who “embeds” herself in old photos for research, the costumer who makes some of the period clothing herself, the gun fighter re-enactor with a role in the film. And that’s not even half of them.

I’m an introvert by nature. But I’m fascinated by people who follow their passions, and I think their stories need to be told.

And even when it’s all done and my story is published, I always wonder, could I have included just a little more?

2016 Award-winners


The Kansas Press Association had its annual convention and awards banquet the weekend of April 23, and my newspaper brought home a good amount of awards. It wasn’t enough to win the overall sweepstakes award in either news or advertising, but at our own little ceremony this morning, our publisher said any time he had to search for a bag to bring home the awards, we’ve done well.

(Congrats, by the way to our sister paper, The Garden City Telegram on their news Sweepstakes award. We’ll get ya next year, Scott.)

For my work that I submitted, I received a total of seven second- and third-place awards. Four of those are shared with co-workers. I’m pretty happy with that.

I think this is the one I am most happy about — third place for Best Online Promotion for my subscription video.

This was a fun one to work on and my co-designer, Mallory Goeke, and I received third place, Best House Ad.

Graphix Squad House Ad

This one received  second place in the Best House Ad category. Both of these were done for our Business Card Directory.

56-Ad Sales 3.5x10

This was a fun one to work on, too. I received third place in Best Online Ad (Motion) for it.


For this one, Sales Representative Eric Rathke and I received second place in Best Online Ad (Motion)

For this front-page banner ad, Sales Representative Joleen Fisher and I received second place, Best Furniture Ad. We also received second place for Best Ad Series or Campaign for ads for the same business.


It draws me back in


I’ve begun writing for my newspaper again.

It feels really good.

I am still working in the advertising department, too. I still enjoy doing that, and we have some long-term projects in the works and it wouldn’t be right to pile training someone new while dealing with those.

Our newsroom is short on staff right now. A long-time reporter (all-around hard news) recently retired, the young reporter on staff moved closer to her hometown in another state, and the education reporter is going to retire this summer. A former sports reporter has come back as a news reporter, and another former reporter is working part-time covering local government. The managing editor has been covering some recent trials.

We are at a slow point right now in my department, so I thought I’d help out with some feature writing for a couple months at least. Work will likely pick up this summer for us, and hopefully the newsroom can add a reporter or two by then. If not, I’ll evaluate how much time I can give to writing and do what I can.

I’ve been enjoying it. It’s good to write again, and this time, I have the tools to use video as a reporting tool, too.

I will be posting the articles, videos and photos in the portfolio section.

Today my boss and our publisher went to a nearby town to help out the weekly newspaper staff with some ideas to revitalize their biz. Sounds like they had a lot of ideas to offer. Seems like a good thing for us to do — it can help strengthen both of us. Will write more on this as it evolves.


Be remembered for the right reasons


I’ve been working in various jobs in print media for most of my adult life. Never before though have I encountered someone like the person one of our ad reps had to deal with this week. It offers up some lessons worth sharing.

The person in question is an in-house graphic designer for one of our clients. He designed an ad for a big sale they have every year. It was a fine-looking ad. The main piece of art, as well as some of the other elements, looked to be original, hand-drawn work. There was just one problem — one of the two words in the big headline was misspelled.

When he sent it to us, the designer even said he knew the word was spelled wrong. “I think I’m the only person so far who has noticed,” he wrote, but in his following sentence acknowledged he wouldn’t have noticed it if one of the area weekly papers hadn’t pointed it out to him. Contradiction much?

“Fortunately,” he continued, “a google (sic) search shows me that many other people misspell this word as well.”

The attached PDF of his ad contained the mistake.

When our ad rep asked if he could correct it, he replied that it wouldn’t be easy because the words were “converted to a graphic and are not actual text anymore.”

The ad rep asked us if we would be able to fix it. We opened it in Illustrator, but the text had been converted to outlines and was divided up on several different layers. My co-worker Chris said he would give it a try, but it was going to take a lot of work with what he had. He asked the ad rep to see if the designer would send us the original Illustrator file.

That seemed to do the trick. The designer responded “If it’s such a big deal for you guys, I’ll fix the issue myself.” And he did. Finally.

I had a friend who worked in that very job just out of college years ago — he was the only designer/marketing person, and the business isn’t one that probably has a lot of people who use proofreading skills in their jobs. So I can understand how a mistake can slip through.

But what an attitude this guy had!

So let’s look at the lessons here.

  • Always look over your work carefully, and get someone else to look over your work before the final is submitted for publication. If you work alone, this might be more difficult, but find a way to make it happen. Maybe you have a colleague you’ve worked with in the past in the same position and you could email each other proofs. If you follow any discussion boards, put up your work there for critique. If you have absolutely no one you trust to proofread or critique, build in some time in your deadline to step away from that piece for awhile and look at it with fresh eyes later on.
  • Save your work in a way that it can easily be corrected if needed. If you’re going to transform text to outlines, make a copy of the original text box and drag it off to the side, or put it on a hidden layer just before you create the outlines. That way, if you do discover a typo or misspelling later, you’re not starting completely over.
  • Don’t cop an attitude when a mistake is pointed out. I know it’s hard not to be defensive, especially if you’re just starting out and your work is very personal and important to you. But accepting criticism graciously will make you better at your work, and better to work with. That is one thing you have to continually practice throughout your career, too. It’s easy to not be gracious when you’re already having a bad day or someone else is having a bad day and treats you poorly. Stand up for yourself if you’re right, but take your lumps when you’re wrong.
  • It IS a big deal. A mistake in your work is not just a reflection of you — it is a reflection of your employer/client AND the publication or site it appears in. Readers of my newspaper, had they seen that ad with the mistake, would have thought it was our mistake. I know from experience. And also, even though this was otherwise a great ad, it’s not something the designer could put in his portfolio. Who would hire a designer if they saw that kind of sloppiness in his work? Especially if they have the attitude that “a lot of people misspell it, so it’s OK.”

You want people to remember your name and work. But you want them to remember you for the right reasons.