Zachary Martin (Chinese name:马如飞) is a great feature writer. Nothing proves this more than his academic accomplishment in my BC&J330 (Magazine and Newspaper Feature Writing) class in this past fall semester.
Martin’s reporting is thorough. His writing is colorful and creative. All papers convey a strong sense of being there. His work shows promise of outstanding professional achievement. As more and more robots are replacing humans in newsrooms, the journalism industry needs more people like him.
Some of his story assignments are published here with minor edits.
When Jennifer Martin had her very first desktop computer, she was fascinated.
At the time, she was 10. Desktop computers were just becoming a new addition to family households and Martin wanted one badly.
“They were so new and so cool during my younger years,” Martin said in her basement of over 100 different computers. “I wanted them all.”
She got very close.
Martin, now 45, has multiple different desktop computers as well as laptops. All of them are locked away in a secret room in her storage room that’s in the basement of their ranch style home.
Her collection began during her youth. After getting her first computer as a gift, she began saving money for more.
In five years, the amount of computers doubled in size. For the next 20 years, Martin began to go to garage sales, look up sales in newspapers and when the Internet became worldwide, online shopping was her focal point.
By the time the brown haired and blue-eyed native of Peoria, Ill. was 40, her collection reached 90.
“It all happened so quick, but I fell in love with them and once I bought one, I wanted to buy more,” Martin said smiling. “It was like, a credit card in my heart never maxed out and the money kept coming my way.”
More affiliated with Microsoft, Martin showed off her stash.
Wide range from ones in the 1980s to a very polished 1999 Windows computer. All the wirings, according to Martin, are hidden.
None of them have been plugged in. Martin fears if they get plugged in, they’ll lose their value.
“Once they’re turned on, it’s hard to turn them off,” she said. “Not taking a chance on it. I want their value to stay high.”
Martin’s husband, Phillip, can’t say he blames her.
“She’s got a plan for that collection,” he said.
That plan is once she dies, Jennifer Martin wants her two children, Caitlyn and Aiden, to sell the laptops and pay off their student debt with the money they earn.
For Jennifer Martin, that’s priceless.
“I want my kids to succeed in life after college and these computers will help them,” she said dusting through some of the dirtier desktops. “These will be my legacy.”
That Kid who Kisses Ford Explorers
At the spry age of three, there was this child who every time he went to the car dealership with his parents, he had to kiss every single Ford Explorer in the lot.
It didn’t matter the color or the year, if he saw the blue circular Ford sign on the front and in slanted print Escape on the back, the child puckered up. Afterwards, when his parents saw what he was doing, the dad asked a question; “Is our child autistic?”
Yes dad, your child is autistic.
For the last 18 years of my life, I’ve dealt with high-functioning autism. Being diagnosed with it at University of Iowa Hospitals wayback when, was something that I’ll never remember, but yet never forget.
It started something in my life. It was from that day forward my mom put me through speech therapy, helped me develop social skills and be as normal as possible. It wasn’t easy from the get go.
I wouldn’t have a conversation with anyone I didn’t know. At times, I used sign language, something I learned for over two years.
Instead of talking, I used my own personal sign language. Some was typical, but most was personalized to suit me. My mom always said that I need things personalized in my life, and she wasn’t wrong.
For a long time, doubt crept into my mom whether or not I was ever going to speak. I learned sign language and used it for the first few years of my life, but never spoke a word. My first word was hockey, but how it came out was like I was hacking up a lung.
Then on, I always talked.
No one could get me not to stop talking. It was like a drug that I needed everyday in order to survive. The problem was, it was never clear.
Stuttering was a big issue for me growing up. For a lot of words with hard sounds, it took an entire semester to get one word out of my mouth. For a sentence? I could have graduated with my masters degree before a finished a full 10 word sentence.
Bullying eventually became common.
It took until I got to my sophomore year of high school to finally stop stuttering after every word I spoke. One of my most vivid memories comes from sixth grade science when I was tasked to read a paragraph out of our textbook. I get to the word telescope and it spirals out of control.
Struggling to get the next syllable to get out of my mouth I hear one of my classmates, who later killed himself last year, say “Hurry the fuck up!” Another one of my classmates said “Why the hell is he trying? He can’t read!”
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to say a word that for most people, would be a walk in the park.
I’m not like most people.
I talk an obscene amount, to the point where even I get tired of hearing my own voice. I don’t have the greatest social skills. I don’t do well with insanely loud noises or insanely big crowds where you feel like you have no room to breathe. I don’t do well under extreme stress because my brain can’t handle it.
I now broadcast games for ESPN3, write stories for sporting events for the third largest newspaper in the state of Iowa. I’ve tackled issues that have come arise, garnered awards for my work and now have my own apartment for the first time in my life.
There’s still things that for me, are problematic.
At almost 22 years of age, I still don’t have my drivers permit. I crashed into a building my first time getting behind the wheel of a car. I have a hard time forgetting the moment, to the point where it replays over and over in my head.
I’m just now paying my rent for the first month. It takes me years amongst years to understand someone and what they’re saying. I have little empathy for people, something that I’m still working on.
I’m imperfectly, perfect. I have two loving parents who have helped me through this crazy journey called life. My girlfriend and love of my life has been by my side for the past year. I’ve got a group of brothers that have my back. My professors, supervisors and bosses have all been kind and understanding about who I am as a person.
Being autistic doesn’t make me any different, it just makes me unique. It’s not a disorder, I’m not changed by it, I just see and handle things differently.
I am, who I am. Who am I? Someone who at the age of three years old, just kissed Ford Explorers.
Huang Experiences New Life in America
For Dr. Xiaojun Huang, it was something he couldn’t get out of.
A professor at Nanchang University and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Huang needed to be abroad and be a visiting professor to help not only his institution, but himself.
“Nanchang University wants to become a global university,” Huang said. “You have to meet this obligation.”
So when Dr. Yong Tang let the rest of the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism know about Dr. Huang, it was set in stone.
Huang has embarked on not only his first year as a visiting professor, but his first year living in America.
“You can’t find very crowded places, so it’s a very good place to relax and concentrate,” Huang said.
His relationship with Tang has helped the process.
They’ve known each other for over year through a colleague at the People’s Daily. “He (Dr. Tang) loves me,” Huang said through Tang translating.
Which led Huang, a man with very short hair and glasses, to only think about WIU.
“Professor Tang said we are able to help me,” Huang said. “I didn’t look at other options.”
However, Huang did do research on Western’s department and the city of Macomb. What he found was fascinating.
“You have some pulitzer prize winning alumni, so that speaks volumes to your education,” Huang said. “Surrounding areas is a visual appeal.”
Over in China, Huang describes classrooms as strict and students treat professors with respect and dignity. In his first few months observing classes in America, he sees a different atmosphere.
Huang’s biggest classroom size at Nanchang is close to 50 students. In Tang’s journalism 330 class, there’s just over 10 students.
And unlike China, students here in the United States leave class early, don’t show up or show up late and treat professors badly.
“Tends to be more informal, less strict,” Huang said. “In China, if you leave early, don’t show up or be tardy, it shows disrespect.”
Huang has shadowed Tang in his classes throughout the semester, but Tang believes there is still more he can do.
“If possible, Dr. Huang can observe other professors classes,” Tang said. “I hope we could work on some research projects. I hope professor Huang can take this opportunity to travel the country to better understand the culture.”
After his time in Macomb, Huang will compile research he has done and take some lessons back with him to Nanchang University. He hopes to bring some positivity back to his classes.
“Western Illinois University has provided me this great opportunity,” Huang said.
Sexual Assault Still At Alarming Rate
Every corner, every alley, everywhere, sexual assault is happening.
On college campuses, it’s even more common. At Western Illinois University, sexual assault is seen very often through the Office of Public Safety.
According to officer Jerry Allen, at least 5-10 reports of sexual assault come through OPS. Not knowing the reports that come to the Macomb Police Department, Allen says it could be “double.”
“We see many people come into our offices reporting a sexual assault incident for either witnessing it or coming for their friend,” Allen said in his cubicle in Mowbray Hall. “We handle protocol from there.”
If there is an incident of any kind on campus, OPS will send an email to all students letting them know what is happening.
According to bestcolleges.com, a circular chart mentioned who is involved during a sexual assault. Over half is that the victim was assaulted by an intimate partner. The remainder of it was by either a stranger, acquaintance or relative.
Allen sees it the same way.
“Most, if not all, our calls are by someone who was sexually assaulted by their significant other,” Allen said seriously. “While we do see other instances, that is are most common.”
Other campuses sense similar traits.
An officer on the campus of St. Ambrose University, Garrett Cain, said he sees more males report than females.
“It’s surprising to me, but it does happen to males too,” Cain said standing by North Hall, an apartment style residence hall. “While the stereotype of males assaulting females is very true, we cannot overlook males being assaulted by females or other males.”
According to Cain, the Davenport, Iowa college sees roughly 20 calls per semester about sexual assault. The 27-year old with brown hair credits that due to the size of the campus.
“We are a very small university, so it doesn’t happen as often as a bigger school such as Iowa or Alabama,” Cain said candidly.
While both WIU and SAU experience instances of sexual assault, both give tips on how to prevent it.
Allen suggests people walking alone carry pepper spray or a walk with a friend. Cain says if people have a far walk, call a student escort or talk on the phone.
Jake Reynolds, a student at Western Illinois, says that eventually, sexual assault crimes will be down.
“We’re coming to a point in our society where people are becoming more protective of themselves and their surroundings,” Reynolds said outside Horrabin Hall. “Not everyone is going to lay down at let it happen. We have people fighting and that’s patriotic.”
Porter for Service
Konstantin Mikalayenia doesn’t sell cars where he works.
Instead, he gets cars to look their best and shiniest so they can be taken off the lot and to an owner.
What Mikalayenia, a native of Russia, does is called a Porter. In simple terms, it is a handyman who makes sure the cars are well-maintenanced, in excellent working condition and are ready for possible purchase.
Keeping up on the lot and checking each car to make sure there isn’t a small leak or problem with it is also part of the job that Mikalayenia works during the winter and summer months.
“It’s not the sexiest job in the world, but it’s fun and interesting,” Mikalayenia said. “Plus, the money is good.”
At $20 an hour, the long blonde haired with glasses and sharp teeth, Mikalayenia has worked with over 1,000 cars in his four years of working as a Porter for Reynolds Ford car dealership. It ranges from Fords that are brand new, to older cars and other brands such as Nissan.
Many stories have happened during his tenure, but there is one that Mikalayenia will always remember.
He uttered the words “life changing.”
“I found a $100 bill next to this 2007 Ford Focus and instead of keeping it, I went inside to ask if anyone had dropped their money and this little old lady got up and said it was hers,” Mikalayenia said, cracking a smile. “I handed her the money and she hugged me. I heard her say ‘you’re a good man. You were raised right,’ and that made me so happy.
“I love seeing happy faces all the time.”
Porters’ don’t need a whole lot to have the job title.
A high school degree and basic knowledge about cars is all it takes, according to work.chron.com. Even without knowledge, Porters are trained to know the ins and outs of many cars.
Another Porter at WIU, John Stevens, says that it’s a very rewarding experience.
“In order for someone to be a good Porter, they’ve got to be ready for anything,” Stevens said with authority. “The manager or lead salesman could come to you with anything and have a certain amount of time to do it.
“Sometimes, the deadlines are tight.”
Mikalayenia has seen some Porters fall through due to lack of commitment. He says a lot of people drop due to not wanting to be on the bottom.
Standing next to his own car, a 1969 Ford Thunderbird, Mikalayenia pretends to sell his car to himself to gain experience.
“Eventually, I do want to sell cars, but right now, cleaning them and getting them ready is a great start,” he said. “That’s the dream and my dad taught me to never give up on my dream.”
Numbers Never Lie
It wasn’t something that anyone in my immediate family prepared for. There was no warning, no signal or amber alert.
Born in Peoria, Illinois and eventually moving to Fort Madison, Iowa, crime wasn’t something I expected to be around in my life. It never happened in my previous stops of living, but it did in my final stop.
Davenport, Iowa is where crime happens at an alarming rate. According to areavibes.com, these numbers are scary to look at and take in.
Of violent crime, broken down into four different types of rape, murder, robbery and assault, there have been 750 reported incidents in Davenport alone. Compare to the state of Iowa and at the national level, it’s double the number of reported incidents.
“It’s a basic fact that Davenport is a violent city in Iowa,” native Jordan Merrill said. “With a lot of it happening on the west side of the city, it trickles over to the north side and downtown as well.
“I wouldn’t want my kids growing up here, knowing their life could potentially be at risk.”
Davenport is the third largest city in Iowa, trailing only Des Moines, the states capital, and Cedar Rapids. Part of the Quad-Cities, Davenport ranks second in total incident reports behind Des Moines and just ahead of Cedar Rapids.
It’s 5,001 property crimes, where over 3,400 of them are strictly theft, are also behind Des Moines in house related crimes. Which leads to this question: does the population determine the amount of crimes reported or committed?
“That’s exactly how it works,” Merrill said in his home on West 65th Street. “More people, more crime. It’s that simple.”
When looking at percentages, it equals and exceeds any grade ever received during a class at any academic level.
Rate of crime is 135 percent higher in Davenport compared to a state level and 98 percent higher than any other city in the nation. Actual occurrence of crime is 150 percent more in Iowa and 88 percent than the rest of the nation.
With still just under 100,000 people living in the eastern Iowa city according to the latest census in 2010, crime is still high and causing aches, pains and long nights for cops.
“They’re long nights and times where you question why you do this job,” a tired and dried-eyed Billy Martin said. “One of these days, crime in this city will be down and the world will be happier.
“When that happens, I’ll sleep well for the first time in 15 years.”
Pool is one of the more strategical games in the world.
It is a game of thought, poise, comfort, energy, consistency and guts. A professional and amateur sport, pool takes time to master.
Dylan Lepper mastered it when he was 11 years old.
A junior at Western Illinois University, Lepper has competed in many semi-professional tournaments across the nation. He’s traveled to Japan, India, South Africa and England to compete against the very best.
Nicknamed “The red-headed yoda,” Lepper has taught lessons to younger players for the last four years. Based out of Abingdon, Ill., Lepper has instructed over 300 lessons of pool.
His first teaching technique is the grip of the stick.
“It’s the most important part of any pool player,” Lepper explained to his students. “Like track and field sprinting events, without a great start, you’re toast.”
Lepper holds his stick between his first and second finger, a holding he learned from his uncle. Originally holding it between his thumb, Lepper enjoyed that holding for many reasons.
“You’re more balanced and you have a better grip,” he said, demonstrating his hold. “It’s a comfort thing. Once you’ve found the sweet spot of your grip, don’t change it.”
Lepper continues his lesson by showing his ball hitting skills. A math major at WIU, the 20-year old uses formulas to best determine where to strike the cue ball.
A white ball with a red dot in the middle, Lepper explains the three basic ways to hit a cue ball. His first way is the basic, hit the red dot. Second way is angle your hands so you get curve on the cue ball. Third and final way is to just hit it and hope for a prayer.
“In pool, you’ll get so many different looks after the break that you want to be prepared for anything,” Lepper said. “Whether you’re up against the wall or a wide open shot into a corner pocket, you want to be ready for whatever happens.”
They’re six pockets on a basic pool table, four in each corner and two on each side horizontally from each other. Lepper loves the corner pockets more than the side.
Even so, he does use the side pockets from time to time. He teaches his students that way too.
“The sides can either be your best friend or your worst enemy,” Lepper said seriously.
Pool is something that Lepper has grown a bigger passion for. He hopes his students feel the same way about the game he was taught himself at a young age.
“How my family was for me with their tutelage, I want to be that person for these guys,” Lepper said after talking with his 20 students. “One day, they might be better than me.”
Lonely and Lively
It’s not hard to look at the only building with no windows on the campus of Western Illinois University and not get turned off by it.
Sallee Hall may look like a prison, a mental sanctuary or something from any classic horror movie. But to a person associated with the broadcasting and journalism department, it’s home.
Sallee Hall opened up in 1964, along with 10 other buildings that included the University Union, Malpass Library and four residence halls. One of its main purposes for being built was to prevent nuclear bombs from the Soviet Union.
In the beginning, this building was used mainly for the English department.
It’s top two floors were specifically for english. In 1965, then-chair of the department John F. Castle created the Writing Center to help students get help with papers.
Sallee Hall had 42 classrooms and 27 offices for professors. Even with $1.1 million to build the academic hall, problems persisted.
According to a history archive book, the ventilation would cause a problem with students and faculty that they heavily disliked.
“I have more understanding,” said professor Dr. Yong Tang, sitting in his windowless office. “This building, it looks like I have a stronger sense of security, so I’m better protected.”
The namesake is Roy Sallee, a former biology professor who came to teach in 1927 and left in 1957. According to his obituary in the Western Courier, he had a strong sense of ants and studied that tiny creature frequently.
In today’s time, Sallee is the home of the WIU department of Broadcasting and Journalism.
And to students who are enrolled in this field that is affiliated with the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) it feels like a place they want to be.
“The smallness of it, it’s hard not to get lost in,” Rebecca Stambaugh said in the newsroom. “Everyone was tight-knit, kind of homey.”
Freshman Bradley Piros stated he believes the building could use some upgrades, but added something positive about the environment.
“Bathrooms are pretty bad, the big lecture hall downstairs (first floor) has plenty of broken seats and rusting, air conditioning/heating units could be upgraded,” he said through Snapchat. “But, still a super chill building to have classes and get work done in.”
Sure, Sallee Hall may look like an old building to some. To others, it’s a home away from home.
“It made my decision easier to come to Western Illinois,” Stambaugh said with a big smile. “Sallee is a beautiful building on the inside and its outside brings character to this institution.”
Make the Final Cut
At Western Illinois University, one of the things professors associated with the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism suggest incoming students purchase is a MacBook Pro.
This type of laptop is designed and made through Apple that comes in two different sizes, 13 inches and 15 inches, and the newest version can come with a touchbar.
In a previous promotional video, former video editing professor Sam Edsall said; “Along with that, the necessary software for broadcasting.”
One of those software programs is Final Cut Pro. Through Apple, it’s the premier video editing platform for broadcasting students at WIU.
Through the years, Final Cut Pro has been updated and new versions have come out. The latest is called Final Cut Pro X.
Apple’s latest version was released in the summer of 2011. It allowed support for four gigabytes of RAM and brought multiple new features to the table.
Take another software, iMovie, and juice it up with steroids, that’s Final Cut Pro X.
Kyle O’Reilley, a broadcasting major with an emphasis in videography, says this newest edition of Final Cut Pro is pretty good.
“Since it’s so close to iMovie, it makes it easier to use,” O’Reilley said in the confines of his residence hall room in Corbin-Olson.
But for someone who has never worked with it or for that matter heard of it, how do you explain it to someone?
Larry Jordan has a couple ideas.
Based out of Los Angeles, Jordan is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. In its 14th edition, Jordan writes and publishes ‘Larry Jordan’s Free Weekly Adobe and Final Cut Newsletter.’
Jordan finds FCP X to be simple.
“Extremely fast, easy to use, and reasonably comprehensive,” Jordan said in an email. “I find it easy to teach to students. I use it multiple times each week in both my classes and editing training materials to sell on my website.”
According to Jordan, who has written eight books, it takes about 6-10 hours for someone to be proficient in Final Cut Pro X. He sets it up into the following categories:
Media Management and file organization, importing media, reviewing and editing media, trimming, audio editing and mixing, transitions, effects, output and compression.
O’Reilley, who chops up highlights on different Western Illinois and Macomb High School sporting events, believes this is only the beginning of what can be the future of Final Cut Pro.
“When Apple came out with Final Cut Pro 7th edition, that’s what platformed them to make this newest version of editing software,” O’Reilley said. “Hopefully, new advancements come out in future years and it becomes better than it already is.”
A Century in the Making
The year is 1917.
Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. World War I was just concluding. The third annual Rose Bowl Game was by the Oregon Ducks over the Pennsylvania Quakers.
And Western Illinois faced off against in-state rival Illinois State for the very first time.
On Saturday, November 4th, the Leathernecks and Redbirds will battle in the 100th meeting of all-time in the year of 2017.
Western Illinois leads the series 50-46-3, but ISU has won seven straight contests, their longest winning streak in the series history since the early-to-mid 40s. It will mark the 44th consecutive meeting between the Missouri Valley Football Conference programs.
With good reason, there’s palpable excitement.
“The game against Western Illinois is one that we look forward to every year and is always competitive,” Redbirds head coach Brock Spack said prior to kickoff. “We’ve been fortunate to have some success against them recently in the series, but they had a great run in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. That’s what a rivalry series is all about and makes college football fun. The 100th game on Nov. 4 should be no different and fans in attendance should see another great game in the long-standing series.”
Charlie Fisher, the second year head coach of WIU, will also get a chance to avenge last year’s loss at home.
“It is indeed an honor to be part of the tradition rich game between Western Illinois and Illinois State,” WIU head coach Charlie Fisher said while standing at Hanson Field. “So many great players and coaches have competed in this game over the years. Two proud programs that will tee it up for the 44th straight year! This is a very special game for sure.”
Fans of both programs have ample excitement for the game that will kickoff at Hancock Stadium at high noon in Bloomington, Ill.
John Weygand has followed Leatherneck football even before he came here to WIU. He says this team has a chance to be something special.
“Our offense is rolling, our front seven is one of the best in the MVFC and we have this something unique about our team than compared to previous seasons,” Weygand said on the parking lot by Tanner Hall. “ISU is enemy territory. We go in there and take care of business, we’ll be alright.”
That’s how Jack Kipfer feels too.
Kipfer is a transfer student after spending his first two years in the classroom at a junior college. Knowing he wanted to go to Illinois State after receiving his associate’s degree, he knows the hatred of this long rivalry.
“Purple and gold are bad colors to wear this time of year,” Kipfer said with a determined look on his blue-eyed face. “Hancock Stadium will be rocking the red and white, it’ll be loud and it’ll fuel our football players. No way Western comes in here with a win.”
Even with a clear rooting interest, Weygand knows how special the matchup is.
“100 years with one team is surely something remarkable,” Weygand said. “Something that both teams should be proud of.”
Supply and Demand
Billy Martin Jr. wanted to take a chance.
Moving from a small store on Kimberly Road to a much bigger store on Brady Street, Martin wasn’t sure how the move would benefit his business.
“I was skeptical in the beginning,” Martin said. “But, after examining all the factors from customers traveling, to where we’re located, I thought ‘why the hell not.’”
That move over seven years ago has paid off big time for Johnstone Supply.
Martin is at the helm of the Davenport, Iowa store, one of over 400 locations across the United States.
Johnstone Supply mainly sells air conditioners, heating units, furnaces and other equipment necessary for homeowners to survive the hot summers and cold winters.
At a centralized locations on one of the busiest streets in Davenport, Martin has found it to be quite successful. He stated that without the loyalty of his customers, none of the success would be possible.
“I took a close look at how our customers would react with this move,” Martin said in his newly renovated office. “Once I got in touch with a lot of them, told them what the plans are, they were all on board. I can’t thank them enough.”
That customer loyalty has led to some astonishing numbers.
Martin’s store has received the most profit from customers since the move. Even with two stores in the state capital of Des Moines, the lone store in Davenport has been at the center part of sales.
With two traveling salespeople, three counter workers and four warehouse employees, the Davenport Johnstone has the smallest staff in Iowa.
None of this matters to Martin.
“As long as these guys can do their job, and do it well, that’s all I care about,” Martin said looking away to make sure one of his employees, Mitch VanScoy, was working. “I could care less about who has the most staffers, it’s all about who works the hardest.”
Open 7am-5pm, Johnstone Supply has a reputation for serving all customers even if they walk in at 4:59 p.m. It’s all a part of what Martin wants in his workers. Salesman Steve Carter sees that too.
“Our main focus is keeping the customer happy,” Carter said with a smile on his wrinkly face. “When they’re happy, we’re happy. The day seems to go by quicker when everyone does what they’re supposed to.”
Martin hopes one day he can look back at his over 20 years as an employee at Johnstone Supply and be happy. With being a night time police officer, Martin has long nights for many days of the week.
He still manages to keep a smile on his face throughout it all.
“This is my life and I love it,” Martin said with a big grin on his face filled with facial hair. “I’ll always remember my time here and when I eventually decide to retire, I’ll leave with no regrets.”