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Local Editorials

Times they are a changin’ at the Daily News

In the past few days, you may have noticed the absence of some names and the addition of others on the pages of the Newton Daily News. So, I thought I should perhaps explain what’s going on.

Basically, it’s called change.

The first big change you may have noticed was the name “Amy Martens” showing up on our pages. Prior to a couple of weeks ago, you would have known her as “Amy Gronauer,” but she went and got herself married, hence the new name showing up in the paper.

A big, huge congratulations to her.

Another big change you may have noticed is the absence of Mike Mendenhall’s name from our pages. Mike recently left the Newton Daily News after he received a very good offer — one you would either have to be dumb or insane, if not both, to turn down — and is now working for Hy-Vee full time in Des Moines.

Mike was working on a few projects for us when this new development unfolded for him, and he is continuing to work on them. So, you may see his name pop up a time or two again in the weeks to come. If you do, it’s probably not a mistake.

His position won’t be vacant for long. We’ve already hired his replacement, Nicole Wiegand, who will begin working for us in the next few days, once she’s able to get moved in.

Nicole is a native of South Bend, Ind., and is a graduate of the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University. She interned for my hometown newspaper, the Boone News-Republican, and comes highly endorsed by both BNR editor Greg Eckstrom — a former employee of mine — and her college advisor, Mark Witherspoon — who has been one of my past writing coaches.

She will bring with her to Newton a strong skill set in both writing and photography, but also in digital news presentation. I’m really looking forward to her first day on our staff, and I know she will be a great addition to our newsroom team.

Nicole will be joined soon by another new addition to our newsroom team. Late last week, John Jennings came to me and said he was going to make it an even baker’s dozen and retire Nov. 1, which will be the 13th anniversary of his first day on the job here in Newton.

Having already had a nationwide effort to replace Mike Mendenhall underway, we broadened our search, and have already begun interviewing candidates literally from coast to coast who are eager to come work for the Newton Daily News. There are several strong candidates among those who have applied for the job.

I’ll let you know when we have John’s replacement hired. Also, we’re planning a community open house in his honor for later in October. Once those details are finalized, we will provide notices for the public in our paper.

I haven’t gotten to work with John for very long, but I came to appreciate his wealth of “institutional knowledge” almost immediately. I know he was very popular with many of you, but I will certainly miss him, as well.

We won’t just be making personnel changes at the Newton Daily News, though. Behind the scenes of our daily news operation, our entire editorial staff has been working hard on a project to completely redesign the look and content of your daily newspaper.

One part of that process was to poll a segment of our readership to see what kinds of changes you would like to see in the paper. Those of you who were involved in that process received a packet of information two weeks ago and participated in our readership survey last week.

Now we eagerly await the responses to our survey, which should be returned this week in the self-addressed stamped envelopes we provided. Those responses will then be tallied to provide an overview of our readers’ likes, thoughts and desires about the content and look of the newspaper.

By the end of November, you will see those changes come to life in a completely new and revamped Newton Daily News. Those changes, in turn, will result in a few changes to our digital presence, too.

It’s not uncommon for a lot of changes to happen when I join a newspaper. It’s probably fair to call me a “change agent.” But this is even more change than I am used to dealing with.

Not that I’m complaining, though. Personally, I think it’s kind of cool. And, once we’re all done, I hope you can agree with that sentiment.

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

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