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Harlan, Iowa, publisher says internships are key for journalism students

Alan Mores. Photo courtesy of Iowa Newspaper Association

Alan Mores              (Photo courtesy of Iowa Newspaper Association)

By Chelsea Musfeldt
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

As a sophomore at Iowa State University, Alan Mores had already figured out what he wanted to do with his life. Mores wanted to own a newspaper.

To prepare himself, he had looked for a school with accredited programs for journalism, business and marketing.

A young man with a focus on marketing/public relations glanced into the world of journalism and didn’t look back.  He was going into a family business: His father owned the Harlan, Iowa, newspaper.  And Mores ultimately became the co-publisher of the Harlan Newspapers (Harlan Tribune and Harlan News-Advertiser).

Mores graduated from Iowa State in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism but he also studied at the University of Northern Iowa, the American Press Institute and the University of Tennessee.

In a phone interview, he talked about his career and offered advice to journalism students. Students, he said, should expand their options by taking classes outside of  journalism school.  Business and economics are critical and “that field of study for a journalism education puts you light years ahead of your peers.”

 He also recommends getting as many internships as possible. Mores interned for both then Gov. Robert Ray and Rep. W. Hensen Moore.  “I was able to see how the press managed politicians and how politicians managed the press,” Mores said. “It was an eye-opening exchange and also aided me in working with news sources and advertisers as I learned how to ask questions and get the answers I needed or the ones that my source wanted to explain but couldn’t put into words.”

Working in Washington, D.C., was a great experience, he said. He was considering continuing his education at George Washington University while working as a full-time press aide for W. Hensen Moore instead of graduating from Iowa State. But his plans changed when he received two phone calls – from the Iowa communities of Mt. Ayr and Harlan – about becoming a minority owner in the local newspapers. The decision wasn’t easy. In the end, he decided to leave behind a “big fancy job” for a rural Iowa newspaper.

Now his average day is packed. After a three-mile walk each morning, Mores has a pretty good idea of what needs to be done that day and when it should be done by. The daily tasks are usually in the works  by 10:30 a.m. For someone who works with newspapering, printing, commercial printing and ad agency work, there isn’t much downtime. He spends  a few hours at home in the evening with his family, before heading back to work from 8:30 to 11 p.m., to edit and work on design and creative projects.

Despite the long hours, he likes the challenges of a small town paper including the  “constant change, leadership in the community, and the ability to get concepts into practice quickly.” On the other hand, Mores said, “managing people has changed as rapidly for me as has technology changed.” Like everywhere else, managing people and dealing with issues in the journalism business is tough.

 Mores has this advice for budding journalists:

  • When it comes to editing, remember that there is no hiding from what you’ve said or written.
  • Put your long stories on the Web.
  • Keep your printed stories to 300 to 400 words.

As for getting jobs in the field, he offers these tips:

  • Obtain at least two summer internships during college.
  • Focus on getting involved on campus in one or two organizations (including the school newspaper).
  • Seek out as many liberal arts classes as possible to make yourself more well-rounded.
  • Plan what you want to be doing or where you will be at in your life when you’re 28, 38, 48, 58, and 68.  Without that plan, you have no direction and languish.

Mores emphasizes that young journalists need to keep trying even when it seems unbearable. “Hard work does eventually pay off, there’s no way around it.”

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