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Daily News staff got to enjoy my annual ‘second family’ reunion

Published: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 12:06 p.m. CDT

The annual Iowa Newspaper Association convention in Des Moines is the highlight of the year for many Iowa journalists. There are meetings, training sessions and opportunities to learn about the latest improvements in technology and journalistic practices in the 21st century.

It also is the time of year when we recognize the best and brightest in our profession within the Hawkeye State. So, I would be remiss if I did not, at some point, congratulate the folks at the Carroll Daily Times Herald for winning Iowa Newspaper of the Year.

By doing so, Doug Burns and Co. ended the three-year reign of the Des Moines Register. What makes the Daily Times Herald’s victory so special is that it is the first time since before I became a professional journalist that a newspaper other than the Register or the N’West Iowa REVIEW in Sheldon – a paper I worked at for nearly four years – took top honors.

It also reinforced the message I have been trying to convey to our newsroom staff. I believe the Newton Daily News can seriously be part of the Newspaper of the Year conversation, even as early as next year. To that end – and, more importantly, because we should be doing it for the benefit of our readers – I began a 60-day “get better” initiative with our newsroom team two weeks ago.

Also among the best and brightest recognized Friday was Boone News-Republican editor Greg Eckstrom, winner of both the prestigious Jay P. Wagner Young Iowa Journalist Prize – named for the former REVIEW editor – and the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Young Iowa Journalist Award. He’s the first Iowa journalist ever to win both in the same year.

What makes that even more special to me is that I nominated him for both awards, hoping he would get one, because I saw how incredibly talented he was the day I hired him. A little more than five years ago now, I hired him as a staff writer for the Northeast Dallas County Record.

Three months later, I promoted him to sports editor of the Dallas County News. And, six months after that, I recommended him for his current job. And now, I’m poaching (his phrase, not mine) his best and brightest interns to come work for the Daily News: sports editor Shane Lucas (who I had nothing to do with hiring) and staff writer Nicole Wiegand.

One of the highlights, before I even knew about his Young Iowa Journalist Award, was to introduce Greg to one of Jay Wagner’s best friends, who also happens to be a pretty good friend of mine, former Register feature writer Ken Fuson. I “grew up” in the profession reading Ken’s work, as did Greg, and I could tell by the look on his face he was like a child looking at the presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

The INA Convention also serves as my “second family” reunion each year. Having bounced around the state in the course of my career – and taking into account any “bouncing” those I’ve worked with have taken part in – there is always a lot of handshaking and hugging going on.

I could possibly fit all the names of those I got to see this year in the space I’m allotted, but they all know who they are. I hope, over time, it becomes just as special of an event for the members of the Daily News newsroom team. That’s why I made sure we brought them along this year.

And, I also hope we’re able to bring back plenty of good news to you, our readers, every time we go.

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at beschliman@newtondailynews.com via email.

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