Besides spending many days in the Daily Iowan newsroom, Dieterle, 72, was a University of Iowa academic advisor for 26 years. Currently, she serves on the boards for the New Pioneer Co-op and the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee.
When Dieterle’s away from the thrill of the newsroom and the intelligent and open-minded reporters she meets, she enjoys being in her garden or reading at home or the library.
Dieterle sat down with fyi to discuss her life and how working at the Daily Iowan for so long has allowed her to reflect on the history of the past 30 years.
Let’s go back to 1977—what brought you to the Daily Iowan?
I needed a job. That, and I had been interested in journalism since high school, and the DI’s reputation as a very liberal, far-out place—to the point of appearing “scandalous” to some—was very appealing. When I told people I was working there, I heard worried comments about the loose living of the staff, drugs, drinking, etc. This did not put me off at all.
A few of my favorite things…
Drink: Bell’s Lager of the Lakes
Weekday lunch spot: New Pioneer Co-op
Book: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
Movies: Eating Raoul
TV show: Mystery!
Music: depends on my mood
Web site: New Yorker cartoon caption contest
Sports team: Michigan Wolverines
What do you get out of working for the DI?
I receive the thrill of being in the newsroom and knowing so many interesting, open-minded, nice people. I like being able to see former staffers’ wire service bylines and remember that I knew them when they were at the DI. I look at back issues and marvel at how quickly people forget, and how transient some fads and fashions are. How history sometimes repeats itself. There also have been some totally amazing parties and good times.
If I could change something, I’d undo the time that we lost all the computer files of articles from 1995 to 1999. They went into the ether when “Spirit,” the master computer of that time, died.
What particular DI moments stand out?
There have been so many good times; it’s hard to choose. Maybe when we beat the Press-Citizen at softball by following a “no drinking while playing” strategy. The Press-Citizen used their carrier staff instead of their newsroom staff, and had beaten us for several years—partially because of their carrier players and partially because of a keg they’d bring. [DI publisher Bill] Casey said if we beat them, he’d provide the drinks and furnish picnic food. It was a satisfying picnic and party after we whipped their butts.
What’s the most unexpected thing that ever happened to you in the newsroom?
Back when the DI office was in the Communications Center, an angry Daily Iowan editor threw a pizza that hit the glass partition just over my desk. Fortunately he wasn’t mad at me. Unexpected stuff in a newsroom happens as a matter of course: the Challenger disaster; the April 13, 2006, tornado in Iowa City; the Nov. 1, 1991, physics department shootings. I was in the newsroom for those. “If it happens, it’s news to us!” is the DI motto.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? What was your first job?
When I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist. My first job involved picking tomatoes at a nearby farm that shipped them to the Detroit markets. It was awful. It was hot, dirty, and full of decisions: Is this tomato too ripe? Not ripe enough? Free from blemishes? But I earned enough money to buy a high school letter sweater, upon which I displayed the letter I earned for being on the high school rifle team. At the time, it was the only high school sport that a girl could letter in.
It might surprise my colleagues to know I once belonged to the National Rifle Association, and I was a Republican in college.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?
I got married. It paid off in that I have three children I love dearly, and I’ve learned a lot I wouldn’t have if I’d remained single. I had some opportunities and experiences that I’d have missed if I hadn’t married whom I did. Getting married can come with a lot of baggage that is harder to deal with, but I raised three children and kept my sanity—I consider that my biggest accomplishment in life.