Category: Simply Put

Simply Put – September 23, 2020

Eighteen years ago when we purchased The Progress Review, we brought with us a strong desire to make a positive difference in our community and four years of the best journalism instruction taught by Jan Rutledge and Art Saldaña at Linn-Mar High School. Even so, with the challenge of operating a community newspaper before us, we knew we needed help. With that in mind, the first call we made was to Mary Bauer. It was the best decision we’ve ever made at The Progress Review.
Initially, Mary was hired as an office manager, someone who could answer the phones and greet and serve walk-in customers. But that was just the beginning. Over the years, as the needs of the newspaper changed, the best person we ever could have hired took it upon herself to do whatever she could to support the business. In the early days, it was Mary who rounded up the support of Rachael, Lauren and Rick to help with especially labor-intensive print jobs like school calendars. Need a photographer? Mary was there with her camera to take award-winning photographs of the local landscape and Union High School sports. Need someone to layout the newspaper, design signs, greeting cards and other printed products? There was Mary, taking it upon herself to learn advanced skills using sophisticated software to produce high quality finished products that really wowed the customers. And on the days when we were out of town, Mary was the first one to volunteer to come in on her day off to make sure that the newspapers were safely secured and ready for processing.
Simply put, for eighteen years Mary Bauer has been the very essence of the kind of service we hoped to devote to our community. She is a Renaissance woman, someone who does so many different things, all of them well. And the sum of her talents and skills are exceeded only by the size of her heart. In Mary Bauer, we were blessed to have someone who cared just as much about our business and serving the people of La Porte City as we did. All business owners should be as lucky to have such a loyal and special friend working in their shops.
I write these words because they are true, knowing however, that like any good photographer, Mary prefers to be behind the camera, not in front of it. Before our run as publishers of The Progress Review comes to a close with the September 30, 2020 edition, though, it is important to acknowledge that any success we have had along the way is due, in large part, to Mary’s efforts.
To thank her for her years of service to the community, we will host an open house on Friday, September 25 from 1-4 PM. I invite our readers to take the opportunity to stop by and offer their best wishes to Mary as our nearly two decades of producing news, features and entertainment for the LPC community comes to an end. Refreshments will be served and free copies of a reproduction of the very first front page of The Progress Review will be available as souvenirs. For those not able to attend, we’ll make sure that any cards sent to Mary at The Progress Review (213 Main Street, La Porte City, IA 50651) get forwarded to the guest of honor.
Thank you, Mary, for eighteen wonderful years and all you have done for the community we love.

Simply Put – March 11, 2020

By Mike Whittlesey
“All good things must come to an end.”
This quote and well-known proverb dates back to 1374, first appearing in Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem entitled “Troilus and Criseyde.” While not the exact words Chaucer used in the poem, which was written in Middle English, the sentiment serves as an appropriate metaphor for the work that has been done at The Progress Review the past 18 years.
When we purchased the local newspaper in 2002, our goal was to continue the rich tradition of the small, family-owned newspaper that began in 1872, when our city’s forefather, Dr. Jesse Wasson, helped merge two rival publications into what would become The Progress Review. Over the years, the publication has been produced and published by a succession of families who have assumed responsibility for reporting La Porte City’s news and events to the community.
Last August, when mapping out retirement plans, it was decided that after some 940 weeks of publishing The Progress Review, the time had come to heed Chaucer’s words. With the hope that the local newspaper would continue on following our departure, a long range strategy was put into place, one that would allow subscribers to continue receiving The Progress Review following the sale of the newspaper. Given the limited market for small, family-owned newspapers, however, we understood the reality that, in the relay race of newspaper publishing, it was very possible there would be no one to hand The Progress Review baton off to.
During our tenure, the world of newspapers has changed considerably, making a steady move from the world of print to include a variety of digital platforms. During that time, The Progress Review was one the first weekly papers in the area to offer a website and later, a mobile app. Whether in print or online, the success we’ve enjoyed always comes back to our loyal readers and advertisers. Without them, there would be no Progress Review. We hope you’ve found the content we’ve published the past 18 years to be informative, useful and, at the appropriate times, entertaining.
The opportunity to serve our community has been a deeply rewarding one. In the world of publishing, there is no greater satisfaction than sharing stories that matter with your hometown. We look forward to continue sharing those stories until our 940th and final edition on September 30, 2020, when our retirement as publishers of the The Progress Review becomes official. If no buyer for the newspaper has been secured by that time, rest assured all current subscribers will receive a refund for the remaining amount of their subscription.
Thank you for allowing us to bring The Progress Review into your home. It has been a pleasure and honor to serve a community that means so very much to us.
~Mike & Jane Whittlesey

Simply Put – December 25, 2019

By Mike Whittlesey
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Not only green in summer’s heat,
But also winter’s snow and sleet.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Just as there are any number of ways Christmas trees are decorated during the holiday season, you’ll find several different versions of the lyrics of “O Christmas Tree.”
Decorated trees have become a seasonal tradition that date back to the Romans and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe, who saw the evergreen tree as a symbol of life in the midst of winter.
Religious historian Edwin Woodruff Tait noted that clear records of trees being used as Christmas symbols did not appear until the 1500s, as part of dramas depicting biblical themes. Plays celebrating the Nativity were linked to the story of creation and the Garden of Eden was symbolized by a “paradise tree” hung with fruit. When these celebrations were banned in many places, people began moving trees into their homes to compensate for the public celebration they could no longer enjoy.
The earliest evergreen branches used in homes were often hung with round pastries symbolizing the Eucharist. These eventually developed into the cookie ornaments that adorn German Christmas trees today.
The custom grew in popularity throughout the 1800s, with many churches setting up Christmas trees inside the sanctuary. Next to the tree often stood stacks of shelves where candles would be placed, sometimes one for each family member. Eventually, the candles were placed directly on the tree, a precursor to the lights and ornaments placed on modern-day trees.
Like the evergreen branches found in many homes this time of year, this edition of The Progress Review is filled with its own traditions, from the “Messages of Peace and Hope” authored by area pastors to “What Christmas Means to Me,” penned by fifth graders at La Porte City Elementary School. Our gift to you, dear reader, it comes with best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season!
If you have not already done so, we invite you to enjoy another holiday tradition, this one made possible by the residents of La Porte City who have adorned their homes with festive lights and decorations. The Progress Review’s “The Lights of La Porte City” slideshow, set to the music of “O Christmas Tree,” offers a reminder of what the holiday season looks like in our little corner of the world and often draws comments from those with special connections to La Porte City who find themselves far away from their hometown at Christmas. You can find it posted on our Facebook page and website ( for your viewing pleasure.

Simply Put – September 4, 2019

By Mike Whittlesey
This week, with the help of Hoppy’s PRIMititive and Proper, The Progress Review debuts a new feature called This Week in LPC History.
La Porte City began making history in 1855 when the city was platted. Serving as the city’s official newspaper, The Progress Review has been documenting news of local importance since 1872.
With This Week in LPC History, we encourage readers to use two of The Progress Review’s newest information tools.
Each week during the month of September, a La Porte City history trivia question will be posed, giving readers a week to locate and submit the correct answer. Readers who submit the correct response will have their name entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate from Hoppy’s at the end of the month. Answer all four questions posed in September correctly and you’ll have four chances to win!
Fair warning: Questions presented will range from somewhat easy to rather difficult. Those who enjoy a good challenge will find the first information tool, the free online archives of The Progress Review, helpful, as they search for an answer that was published in the local newspaper during the month of September sometime in the past 147 years.
Stumped? Not enough time in the day to dig into the online newspaper archives? Use the second information tool, The Progress Review App, to quickly locate and submit the correct answer. Use of the app is also free. Simply download it to your favorite mobile device, then select This Week in LPC History from the main menu. There you’ll find the correct answer conveniently provided. Simply enter your name and email address to submit your entry.
While this contest uses The Progress Review App as the primary method to submit entries, those who prefer paper and pencil can complete their entry by clipping the This Week in LPC History form from the newspaper and returning it to The Progress Review office by the stated deadline.
How well do you know La Porte City history? We hope you enjoy the opportunity to explore the features of The Progress Review App and have the time to browse through the online archives, which have been made possible courtesy of The Progress Review, Hawkins Memorial Library and a number of generous donors.
Complete online access to newspaper archives that is free of charge is a rare service in this day and age. Logon to or and take a look. La Porte City has a number of fascinating stories to tell, past and present. You never know what you’ll learn, This Week in LPC History.

Simply Put – February 20, 2019

By Mike Whittlesey
It’s a simple question with an answer that is more complex than you might think:Upon serving the sentence received for committing a crime, has an offender served his/her debt to society upon release from an Iowa prison?
In an ideal world, the answer is a no-brainer. Why, yes, of course. In a land where we esteem our criminal justice system, despite its flaws, to be the finest in the world, how could it not?
This week, The Progress Review publishes the first installment of a series entitled “Second Chances.” This series was inspired by correspondence with a subscriber who has spent time in the Iowa prison system. Over the course of several years, the letters we’ve exchanged have prompted a desire to learn more about Iowa’s response to crime and its treatment of convicted criminals.
I do believe our country’s criminal justice system is the fairest one in existence. But there are flaws. Innocent until proven guilty? The case of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team members, falsely accused of rape in 2006, is one example where the accused were convicted in the court of public opinion long before their rightful legal exoneration was acknowledged.
Recently, the topic of restoring the voting rights of convicted felons in Iowa has been in the news. If the successful completion of a prison sentence truly settles the debt an offender owes to society, restoration of voting rights should not be an issue. That it remains one is an indicator of the many challenges those exiting prison face.
Why should we care about the problems of convicted felons when they get out of jail? They created their own problems when they committed a crime, some will argue. It’s a sentiment I understand completely.
We should care because there are very real costs, emotional and financial, that crime imposes on society. First and foremost, it’s important that we get criminal justice “right” to keep our communities safe. A reduction in crime means fewer victims who suffer needlessly.
A reduction in crime also means a lower price to pay to incarcerate the convicts. Consider this: At $90 a day, the average cost to house an inmate in Iowa, multiplied by the more than 8,500 individuals currently in prison, is a price tag of over $765,000 each and every day that must be paid. You can probably guess where the bulk of that money is coming from- Iowa taxpayers. Add more than three times the number of offenders being served by community-based corrections in the state and it’s not hard to understand why the Iowa Department of Corrections needs $400 million a year to operate.
We should care about helping offenders successfully make the transition to productive members of society because, like it or not, 95% of those locked up in Iowa prisons will be getting out some day. Sadly, too many of them, nearly 40%, are returning to jail, repeating the same destructive cycle of unnecessary victims and the use of financial resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
There are no easy answers to complex issues like the ones facing the Iowa Department of Corrections and the policymakers who make the rules the system must follow. It is my hope that “Second Chances” will help stimulate public discourse on how to achieve justice for law-abiding citizens while successfully rehabilitating those who commit crimes. Only then will our communities truly be safe.


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