DMACC students go on to make it big as writers

By Nevin Cornwell

Ever wonder where your education at DMACC will lead you? Ex-DMACC students have gone on to take jobs around the world in dozens of fields, including writing.

Bob Eschliman has been the editor at the Newton Daily News for eight months. During his 14-year career as a professional journalist, Eschliman has worked at nine different newspapers, nearly all in Iowa. From staff writer to copy editor, high school sports to local news, Eschliman has worked at nearly every aspect of a newspaper.

One part of Eschliman’s story is not so typical. He has no fancy degree to hang behind his desk, in fact he never graduated from DMACC. His work on the college paper was enough to get him into the journalism business and working hard has kept him moving forward ever since.

An old boss once told Eschliman, “I hire people for what they can do, not a piece of paper they hang on the wall.”

“I sent my resume to quite literally every newspaper in Iowa,” Eschliman said. He ended up with three interviews and took his first professional job with the Dallas County News.

He originally came to DMACC with the intention of going into the computer business.

In the spring of 1998 Eschliman signed up for classes at the Boone campus a few days into the semester. He needed a work-study job but there were only two choices; either be a night janitor or set copy for the Boone student newspaper. Setting copy sounded like a better deal and that was Eschliman’s introduction to journalism.

After setting copy for a few weeks, the paper needed some help writing stories, so Eschliman started writing. By the end his first semester on the paper he was offered the editor position since he would be the only student returing the next semester.

Eschliman

Luke Jennett, former Campus Chronicle writer, now works at the Ames Tribune.

Luke Jennett is a reporter for the Ames Tribune. He attended DMACC and transferred to ISU where he graduated with a Journalism and Mass Communication degree. Jennett had signed up for a class called Publication Production thinking it would be about publishing books or magazines, but was in fact the class that produces the Campus Chronicle.

Jennett had written a few movie reviews before, so the understaffed, under-experienced newspaper made him Lifestyle editor. Not sure what he was getting into, Jennett was assigned to cover a campus play.

“I figured I’d do the article so as not to be the guy who jumped ship right before the first edition, and then I’d re-evaluate whether or not I wanted to stay on,” Jennett said.

Jennett showed up on campus the day of dress rehearsal ready to review the play and walked into the building 6 auditorium.

“Inside, maybe two dozen people sat in the dark, staring at the projector screen. No one was saying anything. I stood in the entranceway of the auditorium and watched with everyone else as a plane flew into the World Trade Center; the only indication that it wasn’t some kind of joke the red CNN logo in the corner. They kept playing the impact footage on a loop, showing how the plane had disintegrated itself against the building, again and again and again. That was my first day on the job. Lesson one: Never expect anything to go as planned,” Jennett said.

As strange as it may seem, this tragic event convinced Jennett to focus on journalism.

“I was scared just the same as everyone else in the country and having journalism to hang on to was how I dealt with it,” Jennett said.

Both Eschliman and Jennett became journalists when they were not expecting to but they have another thing in common.

“[Jan] LaVille is the whole reason I’m in Journalism,” Eschliman said.

“Jan LaVille taught me journalism. I can’t begin to describe how much of an impact she had on my life and how thankful I am for it,” Jennett said.

This year Jennett won first and third place in Best News Feature Story at the 2013 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show.  His first place story, “One is spared, one is lost” is the story of a three-year-old boy, Spencer Corson, who dies and the investigation that follows, leading to the arrest of Amanda Porter.

The third place winner is about Tamela Montgomery, who was shot by her ex-boyfriend and waited an hour for rescue workers to get to her.

Both stories fell under Jennett’s normal beat, and it was years from the initial incidents to the final stories.

“It does get challenging to remain objective in cases like this, because the subject matter is just so awful. I tried to remember that Spencer had many, many people to feel angry for what happened to him; my job was to tell his story as best as I could,” Jennett said.

Eschliman has covered nearly every type of story. Some of his favorites were while working as a special projects writer for N’West Iowa Review.

“You could spend half an hour shooting the breeze with Willie Nelson one day, then half an hour with the Harlem Globe Trotters the next,” Eschliman said.

“Every newspaper has its own little quirks and challenges,” Eschliman said.

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