Sunday, January 25, 2004

Another Talented Young Iowan Leaves the State

Not a day goes by without Iowans expressing concern that too many talented young people are leaving the state.

One of those talents who made a recent exit was Jody Crossman, who was doing an outstanding job in the newsroom at the Register.

She showed a lot of versatility by not only writing interesting columns, but also displaying enormous talent as a reviewer.

I’ll tell you right now, unless you’ve done it, you have no idea how challenging it is to write columns that are interesting enough that people want to read them and also have enough savvy to review plays and musical presentations.

Jody, who turns 31 on Feb. 6, handled both jobs exceedingly well.

She also didn’t hurt herself with her reading habits.

"Hey, Ron,

"Big fan of your site," she said in an e-mail about whatever it is that I do in this space. "I’ve been a long-time reader, even when I was working for the Register."

Obviously, that kind of talk will enable Jody to go anywhere she wants to go.

But, unfortunately for all of us in Iowa, the place Jody went was Indianapolis, where she’s in the early stages of working for what she calls "a Gen X publication that was just launched in December called INtake Weekly. It’s a product of the Indianapolis Star. I’m writing covers and a column every week.

"The writing is similar to what I was doing in Des Moines, but the overall job is so different. It’s a lot more work than I had anticipated and, since it’s new, we’re still making up the rules."

Let’s back up for a second. So how does someone get a job like Jody had in Des Moines? Well, listen to her tell the story.

"I grew up in Marshalltown, attended high school there and graduated from Drake University in 1998," she told me. "I was hired at the Register part-time right out of college to do agate for Around Town.

"I felt it was an ‘in’ at least so I didn’t care that I wasn’t actually writing. It was technically my first job, though I did work as an intern of sorts for the Times-Republican in Marshalltown from 1991-1992.

"I suppose you could say I worked my way up while at the Register. I did obituaries, wrote for business, Around Town and features, where I eventually settled in as their theater reviewer and pop culture writer. I reviewed all theaters in Des Moines—Civic Center, Drama Workshop, Ingersoll, Playhouse and StageWest—and took co-writing duties with Kyle Munson on a Gen X column called ‘Life So Far.’ Wrapped up in all of this, I also wrote for Datebook and Iowa Life."

Her columns set a writing standard that two or three others who work at the local paper should have tried to equal, but obviously couldn’t.

With a strong future seemingly ahead of her in Des Moines, I asked Jody why she left.

"I don’t know why I left," she answered. "Really. In fact, I only applied for this job (in Indianapolis) on a whim. I happened to see the Star’s ad for a Gen X reporter on Gannett’s website one night and e-mailed my resume and a cover letter….and we were off and running from there.

"It wasn’t that I disliked Des Moines, but after interviewing in Indianapolis, I found that the city had everything we (my fiance and I) were looking for—affordable loft-living downtown, more entertainment options and a bustling social scene.

"The fact that they offered me a good deal more salary-wise didn’t hurt, but then again I never got into this for the money. I think the main thing that drew me to the job was the fact that I think it’s so important that people my age read the paper. Gen X publications are just sprouting up here and there and I liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor of something that could be very meaningful. So far I haven’t been wrong."

The web address for INtake Weekly is In the Jan.15-21 issue, Jody had an article on men and women (well one of each at a time) living together without being married in Indianapolis, plus a very funny column on getting married that’s headlined "Getting Hitched? Get a Planner!"

In the column, she writes, "Over the holidays, I got engaged."

However, now that she’s planning the wedding, Jody writes:

"What a pain in the ass."

In the Jan. 22-28 issue, Jody authored a story about nannies and a column headlined "No Boys Allowed in This Club" that’s about "The Indy Feminist Connection," which she describes as "a discussion group where no feminist topic is off-limits."

Now that Jody Crossman is gone from the local paper, somebody’s got to take her place—or at least try to.

Maybe not to do exactly what Jody did, but at least to fill a chair in the newsroom.

People tell me that Erin Crawford, who has been managing editor at City View, has been hired to work for the features department.

Evidently not everyone is turning cartwheels over that move.

"What a crock," someone tells me. "Why would they hire someone who has made a career of ripping on the Des Moines Register? When the note went out last week, it sounds like they were thrilled to have her around. Maybe they hired her because her husband happens to work at the Register as well. He’s a copy editor. His name is Nathan Groepper."

Still more on the hiring of Crawford:

"I don’t need to tell you what a bad move I think that was," I’m told by someone close to the scene. "I mean, why would they hire someone who has spent the better part of her journalistic career tearing apart the efforts of her competition? She’s also not terribly well-respected in the city. I think she’s just walked on too many people.

"I just think it’s a shame they couldn’t find anyone better."

I’m told that Jeff Bruner will do theater reviews. Lots of luck on that move, too.

Vol. 4, No. 6
Jan. 25, 2004