May 15, 2021

Van Nostrand: ‘There’s a reason why we go back for seconds’

By John Van Nostrand, CNA managing editor

We probably all have a favorite movie or television-show episode we like to watch over and over again and still have the same good feelings we had when we first watched. The same thing could be said about songs we like and hear multiple times on the radio or through our personal music library.

I think a job and location can have the same, positive feelings. That’s why when an opportunity to return as managing editor of the Creston News Advertiser was offered, I took it.

My first time at the News Advertiser was from May 2002 to October 2005. Wife Jennifer and I were expecting our second child later in 2002 and I needed something more to provide for our growing family. Our first born wasn’t even 1 year old when I started at Creston. I had previously worked at the Adair County Free Press in Greenfield and got to know the Creston News Advertiser staff then since the Free Press was printed in Creston.

For some of the Creston News Advertiser’s older generation of readers, you may remember an E.J. Van Nostrand who ran the paper for 27 years and retired Jan. 1, 1974. I know what you are thinking. Yes, he is more than likely, a distant relative. My grandfather Van Nostrand was born in Burlington and E.J. had southeastern Iowa connections. My mom can probably explain where we all are on that family tree. Or maybe it’s a family orchard?

Creston was my fourth paper in 2002, just nine years after graduating from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado, with an associate degree in journalism. Three of my college teachers, and one of my high school teachers, were right when they encouraged me to start small and work my way up only having an associates degree. I wasn’t interested in transferring to a four-year school for a bachelor’s degree. The News Advertiser was my first daily paper.

The condition print journalism is in, and has been at least since the Great Recession in 2008, is well documented. The growing influence of the Internet-based information and online shopping have been the proverbial thorns in the newspaper industry’s side. But not every paper is hurting in the same ways, or maybe even hurting at all. During my search for a job, that eventually got me back to Creston, I had met with a few other newspapers looking for help. One showed me some of their financials to show they are not in a doom-and-gloom status. Another was very optimistic about his operation and I don’t think it was to patronize me.

During my 27 years in the business, I’ve learned there are three aspects a newspaper needs to be a viable, relevant and engaging part of the community it serves. One is how the paper covers its people. Is the paper honestly trying to find that fine line between what is legitimate news and information and what is better left as shallow and flimsy and better fit for social-media sites? Another factor is how supportive a paper’s readers and advertisers are for the business. It’s great to see people and places contribute stories and pictures for the paper. Creston is no different. Those people know the paper is a great link for the community. The last is the wants and needs from owners. It’s encouraging to see Creston remain a five-day daily in rural Southwest Iowa. What the entire CNA management and staff have done in the past to maintain the paper’s viability is much appreciated.

This is not the same managing editor position had when I left in October 2005. Creston has since added newspapers in Greenfield, Fontanelle and Osceola to its portfolio. I want to use all those papers to tell the residents and others that our section of rural, southern Iowa is a good, viable place to play, work, live and raise a family.

We are rebuilding the Creston news staff and expect to be at full force in early June. Even during my first time in Creston, it was common for reporters to come and go. In a weird, twisted way that can be a compliment. The Creston News Advertiser’s frequency provides plenty of opportunity to get experience and build an impressive resume. That is what helped me to get the position I had after Creston; a publisher position in Colby, Kansas. Creston is big enough to have plenty of story opportunities and small enough to know many of the people and places that make Creston what it is. It’s a great fit.

We expect to be fully staffed by early June as we wait for college graduates and some other commitments to pass. That will give me time to know the people, procedures, routines and, at the same time, come up with a plan and strategy with the others to better cover Creston, Union County. We will do the same for the newspapers in Adair County and Osceola.

Because, like that favorite movie or song, we want you to come back again and again to the News Advertiser and the other papers because you like the feelings they give.