Antique Trader contributor earns Young Iowa Journalist award

I’ll be honest; when it comes to our Antique Trader contributors and columnists, I’m more than a little biased. I admire their brilliance and devotion to providing insightful, entertaining, and inspiring information. We are tremendously fortunate they choose to write for Antique Trader, and we love to celebrate their victories whenever possible.

Sara Jordan-Heintz: Celebrated, Award-Winning Contributor

Sara Jordan-Heintz

Sara Jordan-Heintz, recipient of the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalist award. (Submitted photo)

Celebrating the accomplishment of contributor Sara Jordan-Heintz is what this blog post is all about. Sara is one of the most recent recipients of the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalist award. The honor, of which Sara is a recipient, is awarded each year by the Iowa Newspaper Association. It as part of its annual journalism contest. Sara, who is the features writer for the Marshalltown, Iowa Times-Republican daily newspaper, is a relatively recent addition to the Antique Trader contributors and columnists. Most recently, she penned the Knowing Your Business profile (Jasper52) in the Feb. 14 issue of Antique Trader. Before that, her article about the trend surrounding the infusion of classic jewelry into 21st-century wardrobes served as the cover story in the Jan. 18 issue.

The Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) contest, like that of other similar events in other states, is open to journalists of all media. In addition, it’s open to photographers, graphic designers, production and advertising professionals. The Young Iowa Journalists Award is one of several honors presented during the INA ceremony.  Only three people, under the age of 30, earn the Young Journalist accolade each year. Sara won the award for the Daily 1 newspaper category. The judges for this year’s contest represent the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Chatting With An Award-Winner

I caught up with Sara after winning her award and posed questions to her. Below are her responses. Enjoy!

Antoinette Rahn (AR): What does receiving this award mean to you?

Sara Jordan-Heintz (SJH): As a young woman working and reporting in the era of “fake news” with anti-media sentiments coming from all directions, some days it can be challenging to stay motivated and focused. But to have my work read and evaluated by journalism professionals from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association — people who read a total of 4,378 entries from newspapers across Iowa — and have them select me as one of only three Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalists Award winners is surreal and extremely validating.

AR: Please describe two stories on which you reported in 2017 that taught you something or inspired you in some way.

SJH: In doing some preliminary research for my February 2017 cover story for Past Times, my newspaper’s monthly special section devoted to local history, I stumbled across information on Merle Miller (1919–1986). He was a native of Montour, Iowa, a tiny town of roughly 250 people, about 13 miles southeast of Marshalltown. As I read those first few sources I came upon; it became instantly clear, this was going to be one of those articles, as I say, that “write themselves” because of the caliber of the subject matter. Furthermore, the feeling I had told me this was a story that was aching to be told.

Subject of Empowerment and Inspiration

His accomplishments include being a noted presidential biographer of Harry S. Truman, a novelist, screenwriter, magazine editor, World War II veteran, and an early figure in the Gay Rights Movement. I learned how, in response to a homophobic article published by his former employer, Harper’s magazine, Miller penned a deeply personal and seminal essay. It later was turned into a book. In it he spoke about coming out as a gay man. It was entitled “What it Means to Be a Homosexual,” published in 1971. At one point it was described as “the most widely read and discussed essay of the decade.”

It has inspired modern-day gay rights activists and groups such as the “It Gets Better Project.”

Sure, some Marshalltown area folks in their 80s and 90s may still be familiar with Miller. But, I feel I exposed a younger audience to his story. I really delved into his breadth of work, providing little-known information to our readers. Our newspaper had not written anything on Miller, who was a graduate of Marshalltown High School, for decades.

Miller found his career footing in the publishing industry, gaining employment as editor of Time magazine and Harper’s magazine. He was also a book reviewer for The Saturday Review of Literature. In addition, he was a contributing editor of The Nation.

How inspiring it is to learn that someone from a small town in my readership attained international renown and success and was such a trailblazer for social causes in which I also carry a torch.

Second Story: A Prussian Immigrant’s Survival

SJH: Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown is quite a repository of fascinating materials

Gertrud Schakat Tammen

Gertrud Schakat Tammen. (Photo courtesy of Sara Jordan-Heintz)

pertaining to the diverse life stories of the 23,000 souls buried there. As I formed first a working relationship, and then a friendship, with its general manager, Dorie Tammen, I learned more about Dorie’s mother and her incredible experience as an East Prussian refugee during World War II. In late 2016, Dorie asked me if I’d consider interviewing her mother and doing a profile on her. I readily agreed and met with Gertrud Schakat Tammen, with the piece running on January 8, 2017. The article entitled “Surviving the Nazis and the Soviets” chronicled her life story. A life involving growing up in Nazi-occupied Tilsit, East Prussia.

Gertrud told me about the harrowing evacuation of her homeland at the age of 13 as the Red Army advanced in 1945. These evacuations, and the expulsion following World War II is regarded as the largest forced migration in world history — a reality I had not previously considered.

She was born on June 24, 1931, in Tilsit, East Prussia, then a northeast German city near the Russian border. After the city was captured by the Soviets, it was renamed Sovietsk. It is now a city in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia. In July 1942, the Nazis bombed the Soviet city of Stalingrad, breaking the two countries’ 1939 Nonaggression Pact. Tilsit endured many heavy air attacks by the Soviets. As a child, Gertrud used a red crayon to mark every spot on the family’s map where a bomb had dropped on Tilsit. In addition, she showed me this aged map during our interview.

Recounting Harrowing Events

On Jan. 13, 1945, the Great Russian Offensive began, and her family was desperate to get to Annaberg in western Germany. Nazi officials had repressed the efforts of civilians to evacuate until the Red Army’s advances could no longer be halted.

“The Russians had taken control of the roads, so the only way out was to cross the frozen Frische Haff (a brackish water lagoon on the Baltic Sea),” Gertrud told me. “On Feb. 1, 1945, my mother, my sister Eva, three aunts, cousins and my 81-year-old grandmother, on top of a covered wagon pulled by two strong horses, made our way to the town of Stolp in Pomerania (today a city in northern Poland).”

This mission, known as Operation Hannibal, was the largest emergency evacuation by sea in world history. Over the course of 15 weeks, between 500 and 1,000 vessels of all sizes transported 800,000 to 900,000 refugees and 350,000 soldiers across the Baltic Sea into Germany and occupied Denmark.

Discovering Missed History

One incredible story I learned in doing background research pertained to the events of January 30, 1945. This was the sinking of the passenger ship the Wilhelm Gustloff. It was built only to harbor 1,880 passengers — and forced to carry over 10,000 evacuees. During its journey it was struck by three Soviet torpedoes (during a time they were our allies). It is the largest maritime disaster in world history, and did we learn about this in school? I didn’t. Over 9,000 people died. Some were Nazis, yes, but many of them were persecuted refugees from Nazi-controlled lands. In addition, of those that perished 5,000 were children.

Gertrud and her family could easily have booked passage on this ship and never reached western Germany. Gertrud met her future husband Frank in that part of Germany. They later moved to Central Iowa in the 1950s. These are the things that happen when societies lose sight of people’s humanity. Sadly, Gertrud, 86, passed away on December 30, 2017.

AR: If you could meet any journalist of the past or present, who would it be and what is one thing you’d like to ask them?

Delving Into A Mystery

SJH: Dorothy Kilgallen. Not only was she a popular panelist on the game show “What’s My Line?” but she also was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated crime reporter. Ernest Hemingway once called her “the greatest female writer in the world,” and her newspaper column was syndicated in 200 papers across the country. One of the high-profile trials she covered was that of Dr. Sam Sheppard, whom she always believed was innocent and helped to get him a new trial. DNA evidence years after the fact exonerated him of the crime of killing his wife.

Interestingly, one of Sara’s first large-scale published article was entitled “Who Killed Dorothy Kilgallen?” At the age of 16, Sara, with the help of her father and fellow writer, Larry Jordan, worked on the investigative piece, which was published in 2007 in Midwest Today, the magazine published by Sara’s family. Also, Sara and her father’s research prominently appear in the 2016 book “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much,” by Mark Shaw.

Furthermore, Sara explained, her research revealed that at the time of Ms. Kilgallen’s death in 1965, deemed accidental drug overdose, she was researching material for a book about the assassination of JFK, including what she felt was a flawed conclusion within the Warren Commission’s report. Unfortunately, Ms. Kilgallen’s book was not completed before her death.

Asking the Questions

SJH: My question to Dorothy would be twofold. How did she navigate the male-dominated newspaper business (she was the first and only reporter to score a private interview with Jack Ruby), and of course, I’d very much like to ask what information (or revelations) she was planning to include in the book? I can’t help but wonder if she had lived if the history books would read differently pertaining to that day in Dallas. She had a nose for news and publicly demanded accountability.

As I said at the beginning of this blog post, we take great joy in recognizing the successes of our contributors and columnists, in addition to every member of the Antique Trader community. There is so much for all of us to learn and experience by connecting with one another, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of that.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any of Sara’s future articles in Antique Trader, I invite you to consider subscribing. The cost is $26 for a one-year (24 issues) print subscription and $20 for a one-year digital subscription. Learn more>>>. In addition, be sure to visit the Marshalltown Times-Republican to enjoy Sara’s regular feature stories: http://www.timesrepublican.com.

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