From the News Desk: Jan. 4, 2023

by Cheryl Allen
Posted 1/3/24

I’m a “Never look back, darling,” sort of girl, so reviewing the past year goes against my nature. But during the last week of 2023, that is what I did, going through a year’s …

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From the News Desk: Jan. 4, 2023


I’m a “Never look back, darling,” sort of girl, so reviewing the past year goes against my nature. But during the last week of 2023, that is what I did, going through a year’s worth of issues of The News in order to give you an overview of what happened over the year in our communities.

In the course of so doing, I came across a few news items that pertained to life in this office. What we do here is not generally news itself, but I thought you might be interested in what the year was like behind the scenes of these pages.

We experienced a lot of change at the start of 2023. Our reporter Giovanni Coronel moved to the sports editor’s desk across the room and took over that section. None of us was sure how that was going to work out, as Giovanni had been helping out the news department by chasing fire trucks and photographing dirt moving and SWAT training sessions. But Gio has been doing a great job as sports editor, so much so that he’ll be collecting an award for Best Sports Section from the Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) next month.

TJ Rhodes joined our staff as a reporter in January, and he jumped right into attending school board and city council meetings. He wasn’t a huge fan of working on our spring tourism guide, but he quickly found his footing writing feature stories, taking adorable animal photos, and covering sports. None of us was sure how TJ was going to work out either, but by the time he was honored with a Media Partner Award by Trees Forever in September, we knew he was a keeper.

In February our graphic designer Anna Kahn took home 2nd and 3rd place awards for her automotive and agriculture ads, respectively, from the INA convention in Des Moines. But by August she had been offered a new job, and she left us to take it. “We were lucky to have Anna as long as we did,” sports columnist Paul Bowker said at the time, lamenting her departure. “She’s pretty good, and I say that having worked with one of the nation’s best graphic designers.”

Morgan Dakarian joined us in August as our new graphic designer, and we were all pretty sure she was going to work out. She immediately created a cover for our Streetscape special section that left us all wowed, and people kept coming into the office commenting on how spectacular it was. She took the creative lead and helped us decorate the log cabin at the Kalona Historical Village on Halloween so we could all be lumberjacks, handing out candy to the costumed kids. Now she’s used to receiving compliments on her work, accepting notes and thanks on a daily basis.

While our staff has received high marks, creating this paper in 2023 had its challenges. Our server crashed in January, forcing us to find a workaround until it was replaced later in the month. Suddenly needing flash drives on which to save and transfer work felt very retro.

The labor shortages at our printer in Davenport caused our paper to be printed on a different press, which yielded different results. We never knew if our photos were going to turn out too dark on the page. Then there were weeks when we didn’t receive all the papers we ordered, and subscribers called in wondering where their issue was. Other weeks the newspaper delivery was delayed, and we had to put a sign on the door because it was causing so much trouble.

We had barely returned from our Thanksgiving celebrations when our publisher and ad salesman Ron Slechta had a heart attack and was admitted to the hospital, where he stayed for three weeks. In the office, we looked at each other wide-eyed, not sure what to expect. But we continued to produce a newspaper we thought he would be proud of, and he pulled through, returning to visit us at the end of December.

Newspapers like ours are no longer that common, as many have closed up shop or outsource much of their reporting. We are grateful to be able to do what we do, bringing you the news from our own communities, in which we also live.

Thank you for supporting us in 2023.

year in review, 2023, The News, The Kalona News, From the News Desk