116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Now I know how Bob Bowlsby felt.
The Waterloo native and former University of Iowa athletics director who now rules over the Big 12 Conference had a rough start to this school year when Oklahoma and Texas announced they were bolting to the SEC.
We, too, are losing someone to the SEC.
Leah Vann, who joined our staff eight months ago to oversee the Hawkeye football beat this fall, announced last week she is moving closer to her Texas home to cover LSU for the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate. On the “Hawk off the press” podcast, Vann said she’s “loved every minute” for her time in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
She also wrote in a Twitter post “this has been one of the toughest decisions for me to date, but (last) Saturday will be the last game I cover as the Hawkeye beat writer for The Gazette and (this) Wednesday will be my last day. ... Please know that while my time here was short, it’s made a permanent impact on my life. ...”
While we are disappointed to lose a talented young writer like Vann, we wish her nothing but success and are happy she can work and live closer to her family.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m up for it ...” she wrote.
But like Bowlsby — who wasted little time replacing the Sooners and Longhorns with BYU, Houston, Central Florida and Cincinnati — we, too, acted quickly.
John Steppe, already a member of The Gazette family as a business writer, has joined our Sports team and already has moved seamlessly into his new role as Iowa football beat writer. Steppe wrote a couple of stories before last week’s game against Colorado State and did the “Game Report” after the Iowa victory.
He called sports writing his “first love” during the podcast introducing him to our online audience.
“I’m excited for this,” he said. “Sports isn’t something that’s new to me. I’m ready to have a lot of fun.”
Steppe isn’t new to our staff or many of our readers. He worked as a news and sports intern at The Gazette in the summer of 2019 before graduating from Marquette. He also worked as a correspondent for us during his senior year, helping with coverage in football games at Northwestern and Wisconsin.
He studied journalism, digital media and Spanish at Marquette and covered the men’s and women’s basketball teams for the school’s newspaper. He also had an internship on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s business and suburban sports staffs.
His first foray into journalism came in middle school when he started blogging about sports.
“In high school, I practically spent more time interviewing coaches than studying for my AP classes,” he wrote in an email.
I often tell young journalists to find their passion and the ideas and stories will flow. Steppe, it seems, has done just that.
“I’m thrilled to report on a high-major college football program with fascinating storylines and passionate fans,” he wrote in an email. “Getting to do this at a newspaper that values its readers and reporting staff so much makes this opportunity even better.
“As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I have a great appreciation for the competitiveness of the Big Ten as well.”
Vann, too, is excited to have Steppe step in and actually suggested him when she informed us of her plans.
“I look forward to seeing what John Steppe will do for this beat because I know his heart has always been in sports, and his business knowledge will add a unique perspective to his stories,” she wrote.
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