She had just received one of the most prestigious awards presented to newspaper professionals in Iowa, and Dorine Peterson seemed almost numb in the moment.
The longtime employee of the Creston News Advertiser received the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Distinguished Service Award Friday afternoon at the INA’s annual convention in Des Moines. Peterson, who began as a part-time ad designer in 1988 and now serves as systems administrator at Shaw Media outlets in Creston, Osceola, Greenfield, Fontanelle and Newton, was still a little shocked that she had been selected.
“It’s very humbling,” said Peterson, accompanied by husband Alan at Friday’s presentation. “I feel like there has to be people out there who are more deserving. I’m just doing my job.”
Peterson is the fourth News Advertiser recipient since the Distinguished Service Award was first presented in 1982. Others were Harold Roberts in 1986, Connie White in 2005 and Larry Peterson in 2015.
The INA nomination form lists that nominees should be a current or former employee of an Iowa newspaper or a college association having close ties with Iowa newspapers. It is open to all members of the newspaper staff. Others receiving the award Friday were Perry Bell, longtime sports writer for the Knoxville Journal Express; and Nick Workman, who has four decades of experience in the Ottumwa Courier press room.
Contributions over a period of time for the local newspaper, the industry and local community are considered.
In Peterson’s case, the committee noted her contributions to the News Advertiser’s annual sponsorship of entries in the Professional Hot Air Balloon Races event each September, and serving as promotions coordinator for the local Cancer Support Miinistry.
Rise in ranks
Rich Paulsen, News Advertiser publisher, told the nomination committee about Peterson’s rapid rise within the company after being hired in May 1988 as a part-time ad designer. Her family in northern Iowa operated a printing business, so she had experience in the industry.
Her interest in Macintosh computers in the late 1980s turned into a valuable skill as newspapers were becoming more and more dependent on technology. As it was apparent that Peterson could troubleshoot and solve problems related to computer operations, she was named systems administrator. She oversaw all hardware and software installations and upgrades.
Peterson became an Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist in 2005. As Shaw added newspapers in Osceola, Greenfield and Fontanelle, Peterson installed network systems in those locations as well as her responsibilities for the existing networks in Creston and Newton.
“As technology became more prevalent in the industry, Dorine became proficient in ethernet cables, telephone switches, you name it,” said award presenter Jim Magdefrau, editor of the Belle Plaine Star Press Union. “Eventually her skills became even more important in the online production of the newspaper. Her problem solving ability is a prime example of what makes a community newspaper successful.”
Peterson said she never could have foreseen a career that led to Friday’s statewide recognition when she began at the News Advertiser as a married mother of two in need of a part-time job to supplement the family’s farm.
“When I started it was just something to help bring in a little bit of income,” Peterson said. “I never dreamed that I would be there as long as I have been, or in the capacity that I’m in right now.”
She was in the right place at the right time, with a keen interest in computers matching the industry’s technological boom. There was no such thing as an information technology (IT) coordinator, until her skills made it apparent she needed to serve in that role for the News Advertiser staff.
“I loved the computer and gravitated to it,” Peterson said. “When the Computer Tree was in town, they were really good to learn from. I also had very good trainers in our corporate office, who mentored me a great deal. I just always wanted to learn, to know more.”
Rich Paulsen, News Advertiser publisher, said Peterson’s knowledge of computer networks and programs has been invaluable for many years.
“Dorine is great about helping anyone out,” Paulsen said. “She can explain to anyone how they need to do something in a program. She also is the backup for our office manager when she is gone. Dorine is real versatile.”
The nomination process had comments submitted by several current or former employees on their experience receiving help from Peterson.
Former managing editor Kyle Wilson noted how many times he called Peterson’s phone extension in his first 90 days in that position.
“She had all the answers for my questions about Photoshop, InDesign, Roxen (the company’s editorial portal), iMovie, Shawmail and our website,” Wilson stated. “Her depth of knowledge was impressive. Dorine quickly became another member of my support system, and for that I’ll always be thankful.”
Peterson also worked closely with Wilson in a redesign of the newspaper, including modernizing the masthead along with headers on inside pages. She also designs many of the covers for special sections of the Creston News Advertiser.
“Dorine helps on many of our newspaper projects,” Paulsen said. “She is always pitching in to help. You couldn’t find a better employee.”
Peterson said she’s been able to combine her interest in technology with an important role serving the needs of so many employees in different locations.
“There is a satisfaction with helping people,” Peterson said. “You feel better about yourself if you can help somebody else.”