Tim Manning


News Editor

I recently saw a magazine article about a study showing that 60% of Americans believe that journalists are paid by their sources.

Are … you … kidding … me!

Can we all agree that the relentless, bipartisan “War on the Media” (pronounced meeeee-dee-ah, with an extra-nasally emphasis on the first syllable) has had the desired effect?

On behalf of all the treasonous, scumbag, evil-doing journalists throughout the world, we surrender. Can we invoke a cease-fire and move on to another profession that is equally deserving of round-the-clock character assassination taken to the absurd?

I can see the press conference now: “Goat farmers continue to pump out fake milk! It’s disgusting. Goat farmers hate America.”

All kidding aside, I never would have entered this profession had I anticipated the current climate. I’m still not entirely sure what led me to the newspaper business. For the first 20 years of my life, I had visions of a stethoscope around my neck. I didn’t aspire to even take a journalism course, much less make a lifetime out of chasing around visibly annoyed sources (who also refuse to pay me, by the way).

But a funny thing happened on the way to the quorum, if you will. At some point, I had determined that journalism was a noble profession of outsized importance to our democracy.

Fast-forward 30 years … and we are unable to find anyone who is pursuing meaningful discourse. We have political hacks who seemingly have one goal: To make the word “media” as ugly as the word “cancer.”

Today’s youth could be forgiven for thinking that journalism is a no-holds-barred ridiculing contest, wherein one TV channel spends all day expressing nothing but disdain for half of the American population, while the next channel focuses on demonizing the other half.

Long story short, I was glad to hear about 10 students brave enough and curious enough to sign up for a high school class that preaches objectivity and other journalistic principles.

Jon Fisher, who previously taught English/Publications at Easton Valley High School in Preston after earning a Master’s in Teaching English from the University of Iowa, started teaching at Central DeWitt High School this fall.

Fisher is teaching a Publications class to five seniors, a junior and four sophomores. Students will work on producing the school’s yearbook, selling advertising and posting content to the Purple Onion blog.

Fisher said the students will take on leadership roles while developing their writing, photography, business and overall people skills.

“The students are expected to conduct meaningful interviews, revise their work, develop photojournalism skills, and meet deadlines in the same way as a staff member at a collegiate or local media outlet,” Fisher said. “While they may not go into journalism as a career, their experiences in this class will help them as professionals in some capacity.”

Fisher and I think we can help each other. The Observer is always interested in content written by or about Central DeWitt students, so I’ve asked Fisher to submit his students’ articles for publication in The Observer.

In return, with any luck, publishing their articles hopefully will illustrate to the students the inherent value of a community newspaper.

So, in the weeks to come, I’ll be sprinkling some of the students’ content — articles and photos — onto The Observer’s news pages when space permits. I hope it will be a positive and memorable experience for the students.

I don’t know if the next Woodward and Bernstein are taking Fisher’s class, but studying and practicing journalistic principles can be instructive and worthwhile.

For starters, I think we should rally around any efforts to generate meaningful discourse while also judging people and their beliefs on their merits, not their ideology or perceived differences of opinion.

Pennies from Heaven?

Since first arriving in DeWitt, I’ve been taking notes on various observations of the surrounding area and the people who live and work here.

I had planned on publishing my observations in this space in the weeks and months to come, but I eventually decided better of it.

However, there is one observation that I would like to share. It revolves around my first full day in DeWitt as I was shopping for food and other necessities.

I’m not a coin collector, but I have a working knowledge about the higher values for certain types of old coins. When someone hands me some old coins, I’m curious enough to try to check out the dates of origin, etc. As far as I know, I have only found one “wheat penny” in my pocket change over the past three decades.

However, one day in DeWitt, and I had gathered nine wheat pennies at various stores and restaurants. Throughout the day, I don’t think I received one coin that was manufactured after 1980. I thought it was interesting.

By the way, the first two pennies that were handed to me at my first stop in DeWitt — at Casey’s — both were manufactured exactly 100 years ago, in 1919.

Tim Manning became news editor of The Observer in July after 25 years as an editor at the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque.