Levsen joins Journal staff
As a journalism student at Iowa State University in 2003, Xiomara (Ja’ mara) Levsen barely got her first question about the closing of a college-run farm when the farm attendant, who had been there for 25 years, broke down into tears.
After being struck with the loss of his beloved 250-acre, 95-year-old farm, the attendant was unable to continue with the interview. As she waited for the man to regain his composure, Levsen began speaking with other staff at the farm that sat in the middle of Ames. She completed the interview and went on to write a heart-wrenching story of a man who was losing his home. To this day she contrasts it with other stories on the issue that only dealt with how the trustees had made the decision.
“My story actually got on to the Associated Press and they ran it all across the United States,” Levsen said. “That was the best experience I have ever had writing a story. It still hits me that I was able to get his emotion into the story.”
A week ago, Levsen became the latest community news editor at the Washington Evening Journal. During her first week, she found herself hitting the ground running. She spent the week covering stories such as city council meetings and education issues, as well as a last-minute story on the damage to a Washington city landmark.
She said that she feels the need for written media will always be around. While the manner in which the written word is brought to the reader may vary, she said, the need for the person to gather the information and put it in a readable format will always be there.
“I have always heard good things about The Journal,” she said. “I talked with some people who had worked here before who said that it was a very family-friendly environment and a great place to work. I saw the opening and decided to take a stab at it.”
Growing up in Davenport, Levsen said that she got the writing bug early. As far back as grade school, she remembers setting aside more traditional forms of play in favor of writing her own short stories. In high school she was involved with the district’s literary magazine. When it came time for college, Levsen considered environmental studies briefly, but was soon called back to writing. While beginning college at ISU, she ended up graduating from St. Ambrose University in Davenport with a degree in journalism.
About five years ago, Levsen and her husband Greg, along with their two children, Dennis and Dustin, moved to Riverside so she could pursue her career in journalism and he could open a computer shop in Iowa City. Through a variety of different experiences, she landed at The Journal. She said that she is more convinced than ever that journalism would be her career.
“Even when I wasn’t writing, I was always thinking about things I could write about and what I could say,” she said. “It has always been something I wanted to do. Now that I am back, I realize I should have just stayed.”
When writing a story, she said that having the news is important, but background information in the story also helps the reader have more of an understanding of the issue and how it will impact them. As the community news editor, she hopes to always be approachable for the people of Washington County.
She also mentioned her first name, Xiomara (pronounced Jamara). She said that it is a name of Greek and Spanish origin. She received the name because her father had been stationed with the Army in Cyprus. In response to her mother’s request for a unique name for their daughter, Levsen’s father brought back a list of names. Levsen, who still has the list, smiles when she said one of the names being considered was Xena.