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From the Director

American newspapers have suffered dramatically over the past few decades.  Steep declines in circulation and advertising revenue have resulted in drastic layoffs and smaller newspapers.  According to the Washington Post, weekday print readership fell from nearly 60 million in 1994 to 35 million for combined print and digital circulation today, while advertising revenue tumbled from $65 billion in 2000 to less than $19 billion in 2016.  Meanwhile newsroom employment dropped 40 percent between 1994 and 2014.

Gannett’s Des Moines Register has mirrored these trends.  Indianola felt the impact last summer, when in a spate of cuts, the firm laid off Amy Duncan, then the publisher of the Register-owned Indianola Record-Herald as well as several other of its weeklies.   The company closed all the weeklies’ local offices and eliminated positions.  Slimmer versions of these weeklies continue with a handful a reporters working from home, Des Moines, or Iowa City.

Such stories of the troubled newspaper industry usually end here, but Duncan is writing a new chapter in Indianola and Iowa journalism history.  She started writing a blog on Indianola topics in August, and by November, she was getting over 10,000 page views.

This apparent interest in local news led Duncan and her husband, photographer Mark Davitt, to turn the blog into a full-fledged online Indianola newspaper last month.  They named it the Indianola Independent Advocate after two nineteenth century Indianola papers, and, along with three contract reporters, they cover the city, its people, and key issues of the day.  With a back to the future perspective, Duncan believes in the value of local people with local expertise covering the community and hopes to make the Independent Advocate the newspaper of Indianola.

Check out the new newspaper here.

From Simpson to Saigon

Simpson alumnus Gerry Berry ’67 became a Marine helicopter pilot and served in Vietnam, where in the spring of 1975, he evacuated the US ambassador to South Vietnam just hours before Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops.  Berry will discuss his experience in “From Simpson to Saigon,” on Wednesday, March 20 at 7 p.m. in Hubbell Hall, Kent Campus Center.  There will be reception immediately prior to the program at 6 p.m., also in Hubbell Hall.

Come meet Berry at the reception and stay to hear his incredible story.  Both events are free and open to the public.  For more information, call 515-961-1528.

Master's Thesis Award

The Iowa History Center awarded its 2018 prize for the outstanding master’s thesis in Iowa history.

Abigail Hoy Nissen was given the honor for her thesis, “The Female Voice of Enfranchisement: A Reassessment of Woman Suffrage in Iowa,” completed as part of her M.A. degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The prize carries a plaque and $1,000.

Her thesis reexamined the nineteenth century women’s movement in Iowa. She argued that historians have wrongly inflated the role of Amelia Bloomer in the struggle for enfranchisement, while overlooking the importance of Annie Savery and Mary Jane Coggeshall. These errors, Hoy Nissen believed, painted an inaccurate picture of the woman suffrage movement in Iowa.

"Abby's scholarship pushes the narrative of Iowa woman suffrage froward," said Bill Friedricks, director of the Center. "We were also happy to see her make extensive use of Sara Egge’s work.” Egge was the 2009 recipient of the Iowa History Center’s master’s award and is now an assistant professor of history at Centre College in Kentucky.

Links to Nissen’s thesis and can be found here: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Iowa Trivia

Iowa History Center Scholars will host Iowa Trivia, Tuesday, February 19, 7 p.m., Black Box Theater. Put teams of up to four people together and come prepared to answer Iowa and/or Simpson history trivia questions. This year, we will be using the kahoot platform to ask multiple-choice questions. Amazon shopping spree prizes for first, second and third place teams. Hope to see you there!

K-12 Field Trip Grant Program

Don't forget about our field trip grants. We want K-12 students to get out to Iowa history-oriented field trips and provide schools up to $500 per class to do so. Thus far this year, we have sent about 1,000 students to such venues as Living History Farms, the State Historical Museum, and the State Capitol. Apply for a grant here.