Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Presidential Q&A: Ann Visser, 2003-2007

Ann Visser, JEA president 2003-2007.

It didn’t take Ann Visser long to see the advantage of belonging to JEA. At Pella (Iowa) Community High School where she first started teaching in 1983, Visser was the only journalism teacher so she joined JEA in 1984, and quickly found a community of fellow journalism teachers who would be her “second family” for life. In 2010 her JEA family recognized her service to the organization by presenting her the Carl Towley award.

How did your involvement in JEA move from member to president?

My involvement began when I had the opportunity to serve as JEA Iowa State Director. That position evolved to regional director. I was then asked to run for secretary, which I did, followed by a stint as VP. I began serving as president in the spring of 2003, and I completed my second term in Denver in 2007. I served as past president during Jack Kennedy’s tenure. (By the way, I ran for secretary because I erroneously thought I would be ‘gifted’ a computer to use during my tenure. I found out very quickly that was not the truth!).

Aside from the disappointment of not getting a computer, how did JEA affect your career?

JEA affected my career in so many ways. The relationships formed during those years, many of which I still enjoy today, were definitely a highlight. I know Pella High publications became better because of all of the opportunities I had to be surrounded by and learn from such great advisers. In many ways, my journalism family became a second family. I know I became a better person because of the influence so many of you had on my life.

You were involved in many aspects of JEA, what are some of your favorite memories?

I had many. Perhaps it was when Bob Schieffer was a keynote in Washington, D.C. As president, I was honored to sit at the head table with him. He was already one of my favorite journalists, but the fact that he stayed after the opening session and spent time chatting with those in attendance at our first-time attendee’s reception was amazing.

Perhaps it was those hours my longtime convention roommate Susan Tantillo and I spent analyzing our convention days, or when Bob Bair and I and the Drakes gathered to catch up on the months since we had last met.

Maybe it was just sitting in the convention bookstore area or at convention luncheons and having chats with friends I only saw at conventions. It might have even been some of those JEA Write-off dinners and judging.

The opportunity to come full circle and work with my college adviser Linda Puntney in her role as JEA’s executive director was another highlight.

Finally, who can forget when Sister Rita Jeanne would give her treasurer’s report, always ending with “Pretty good, don’t you think?” So many great memories! So many good people!

You worked closely with the board on a number of projects, what was the overriding focus when you were president?

We were such a great group during those years, some of the best of all time (said with a bit of prejudice). As I revisited the minutes from our board meetings, I was reminded time and time again of how we worked tirelessly toward inclusivity in many ways. I recall that a goal was that we would be approachable for any and all members. We were constantly working toward ways to improve JEA and make it a significant force in the world of scholastic journalism.

It’s been nearly two decades since you last served as president, what should the focus of JEA in the near future?

The organization is in good hands. While there are even more challenges in today’s world of advising publications, I feel quite confident that the board and members are working hard to address those needs.

What is something you would like the readers to know?

So many JEA friends are friends for life. When I was hospitalized with Covid in 2020, my daughter told me a gift was coming that would make me cry. As I opened the poster with pictures and get-well messages from so many of you, I felt so honored and blessed. The poster still hangs in my home today. What a gift all of you have been! And, yes, I cried!

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