Monthly Archives: March 2013

Writing & media relations :: aviation milestone press release

While working as manager of editorial services in Cessna’s Corporate Communications group, I regularly tracked program milestones as well as significant historical anniversaries to identify newsworthy stories for internal and external audiences. One I came upon in early 2011 was the 20th anniversary of the maiden flight of the CitationJet prototype. As you will read in the news release below, this aircraft was a game-changer for Cessna and continues to play a key role in the company’s product line.

Read the news release:


Media relations results:

The news release earned Cessna wide coverage in industry publications and it resulted in a cover story in Flying magazine. The article by Robert Goyer, editor-in-chief of the 200,000+ circulation magazine, detailed the success of the CJ family starting with the CitationJet.

Goyer wrote of the CJ lineage:

“These airplanes have helped Cessna dominate the market for light, small-cabin jets up to the boundary of midsize.

 In some cases Cessna’s competitors have tried, with limited success, to create an alternative vision of the light jet paradigm that Cessna seems to have both invented and perfected.

That original CitationJet was a wonder. At a top cruise speed of 380 knots, it was between 30 and 40 knots faster than its predecessor, and it was lighter while having similar payload numbers. It was also a single-pilot airplane from the start, and its solid and predictable handling qualities made it a realistic step-up airplane for all kinds of pilots.”

Aviation media relations: writing a news release for Cessna CitationJet

July 2011 cover of Flying magazine

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Travel writing :: Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum

Martin & Osa Johnson are the couple you don’t know that you know. And you should learn more about them because they were a pretty kick-ass couple of American adventurers!

Martin and Osa explored a world that was inaccessible to so many in the 1920 and 1930s. Their photography, film and writing allowed others to experience it at the time. Today, that material provides a history of culture and wilderness that has since vanished.

It’s very cool to see their influence in modern pop culture, too: a clothing line and a chain of stores (Martin + Osa) from American Eagle Outfitters, a 2011 Kate Spade “I Married Adventure” zebra-striped purse and the design of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s even been pointed out that many story elements in the sweet animated movie “Up” follow the real life story of the Johnsons.

This article was published in The Wichita Eagle.


Stalking the Wild

Safari museum in Chanute showcases exotic lives of Kansans Martin & Osa Johnson

CHANUTE, Kan. – Martin and Osa Johnson spent more than half of their lives exploring the people and animals of remote regions of Africa, British North Borneo and the South Pacific Islands to capture a vanishing world on film.

Thanks to the community of Chanute, the efforts of this famous Kansas couple to document wilderness, tribal customs and cultures has not vanished.

The thousands of photographs, hundreds of cans of motion picture film footage, 18 books and numerous articles produced by the pioneering adventurers during the first half of the 20th century have been preserved since 1961 at the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum in Osa’s hometown of Chanute in southeast Kansas.

“The Johnsons had this vision of a pristine, wild world out there and believed civilization was making that world disappear,” said Conrad Froehlich, director of the Safari museum since 1989. “They saw themselves as creating a record on photographs and film of this vanishing world.”

The Johnsons’ films and photographs represent some of the earliest and best quality images of our natural world, and they continue to be used in documentaries around the world. More than a half-century after their travels, the Johnsons continue to educate people through those documentaries and through the museum.

Each year 6,000 film makers, photographers, naturalists, historians, collectors and the general public visit the museum, which made the list of top 50 most unique U.S. museums in the 1997 book Offbeat Museums.

An Inspiring Story

“Every year we get zoologists and film makers who make pilgrimages here because their career was inspired by the Johnsons,” Froehlich said. “We also get folks who come in really not knowing anything about the Johnsons and they are not sure what this museum is about. But when they leave, they are really excited about the story of two young Kansans who travel the world and experience adventure and romance.”

Osa Leighty was born in Chanute in 1894 and had not traveled more than 35 miles from home until the age of 16, when she met 26-year-old Martin Johnson. Johnson, who grew up in Lincoln and Independence, Kan., had just returned to southeast Kansas after two years spent roaming the South Pacific on novelist Jack London’s failed quest to sail around the world.

The trip didn’t last seven years as planned, but Johnson brought back thousands of photos, as many stories and a passion for adventure. He opened several Snark Theaters, named after the 45-foot vessel built by London, in Independence to show his photographs and talk about his journey. He met Osa when he took his show to Chanute. A month later, they were married.

There began a life of adventure that made the kids from Kansas famous. They devoted 27 years of their short lives to recording their travels. From 1917 to 1936, they would make five safaris to Africa, two to Borneo, and two to the South Seas. They would produce box-office hits and become stars during Hollywood’s infancy in the 1920s and ’30s.

“They popularized travelogues,” Froehlich said. “They weren’t just showing the scenes, the animals and the people. They were showing themselves on safari: how they lived and how they traveled. It became a story and that’s what people found so fascinating.”

The images opened the eyes of millions of Americans who had never dreamed of seeing such exotic places. Moviegoers flocked to see footage that was photographed at the risk of life: the Kansans living among cannibals and other native tribes, running from angry rhinos and standing among stampeding elephant herds.

The Johnsons also wrote 18 books, including two that are still in print today: Martin’s “Camera Trails in Africa” and Osa’s “I Married Adventure,” which was the No. 1 best-seller in nonfiction in 1940 and stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year.

However, the Johnsons are best known for the dozens of commercial films they produced in order to finance their adventures. “Congorilla” was the first sound movie ever filmed in Africa; “Baboona” followed the Johnsons on their final trip to Africa, when they used two Sikorsky amphibious aircraft to produce the first aerial footage of animals moving across the plains of Africa; and “Borneo,” which included the first photographs of wild blue-faced maroon leaf and proboscis monkeys and is considered their finest technical film.

Martin died in 1937, soon after returning from that trip to Borneo, in a commercial airplane accident on his way to a lecture tour stop in California. Osa wrote many of her books, including her best-selling autobiography, after Martin’s death and continued to work until her death in 1953.

The Museum

The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum opened in 1961 and moved into its current home in the renovated Santa Fe Railway depot in 1993. Osa’s mother, Belle Leighty, donated the Johnsons belongings to start the museum.

Although Johnson archives can be found at a number of institutions, such as the Library of Congress, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art, the Safari Museum is the only museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the life work of the Johnsons while continuing their work of sharing the knowledge of natural history and cultural anthropology.

Visitors start in the replica Snark Theater for a 10-minute orientation before winding their way through the two-story museum that shares the depot with the public library.

The centerpiece of the Johnson Exhibition Hall is a mock campsite with life-size models of Martin and Osa. Visitors can trace the lives of the explorers by following the chronological displays on the walls of the Hall. Photographs allow visitors to see the expeditions through the eyes of the Johnsons, while artifacts such as camera equipment, field journals, clothing and other personal belongings illustrate their way of life.

The highlight of the museum is the collection of photographs taken mostly by Martin Johnson anywhere from 60 to 80 years ago. These are powerful images of people and animals in a world that no longer exists. The images are even more amazing when you consider that they were taken with primitive equipment before zoom lenses, so the Johnsons often stood at dangerously close distances – 8 to 12 feet – to their subjects.

Besides the Johnson archives, the museum houses an art gallery of wildlife paintings, prints and art objects; a research library featuring more than 10,000 volumes of natural history, travel and exploration literature, documentary films, as well as photographs; an interactive area for children; and a gift shop.

One wing of the museum, the Imperato African Gallery, includes objects and masks that represent the traditional way of life in west Africa, an area of the continent not covered in the Johnson’s travels. The tribal cultural material was donated by Dr. Pascal James Imperato, an epidemiologist and admirer of the Johnsons who, along with his wife, wrote the most comprehensive biography of the couple, “They Married Adventure: The Wandering Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson.”

The Johnson Legacy

The Johnsons were pioneers who made a lasting impact on the world with their hundreds of miles of film. But the most enduring legacy left by the couple is their spirit of adventure and exploration, which is kept alive at the museum in Chanute.

“Here were these two Kansans from regular families who had a vision and followed that vision,” Froehlich said. “I hope that when people leave our museum, they are inspired by the story and they think about following their own dreams.”



What: The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum

Where: 111 N. Lincoln Ave. in downtown Chanute, Kan.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-5 pm. Sunday. Closed holidays.

Admission: $6 adults; $4 seniors & students; $3 children ages 6-12; and free for children under 6. Group tours and discounts available. Accessible to people with disabilities.

More info: or (620) 431-2730. Many of the Johnsons’ books and movies are available in the museum store.

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Travel writing :: San Diego Wild Animal Park



This article was published in The Wichita Eagle’s travel section.

Getting Wild in San Diego

Rocky slowly lowers his six-foot neck across the back of the flatbed truck where 10 eager feeders are holding crunchy biscuits over their heads for the Baringo giraffe. His rough, gray tongue – nearly 20 inches long – slurps the treat from your fingers and he begins slowly chewing while eyeing the next biscuit.

One of the tallest living land mammals has just eaten out of your hand. You were close enough to hug the beautiful, mild-mannered creature, but safari guides warned you that a slight swing of his head would feel like getting hit with a 50-pound bowling ball. So instead you sneak a quick pat of his fuzzy mane.

Soon you’ll be dropping apple slices into the mouth of an Indian rhinoceros and rubbing his horn. Once widespread in southeast Asia, the whole population has dwindled to less than 1,100 living in India.

But you didn’t have to travel to another continent for this experience. As a visitor to the San Diego Wild Animal Park you have just fed a successfully reproducing family group of Indian rhinos and the first third-generation offspring in the Western hemisphere.

For years tourists and animal enthusiasts have flocked to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and for good reason. The 100-acre zoo offers 4,000 animals representing 800 species, including some of the world’s rarest wildlife: giant pandas (and Hua Mei, the only panda cub in the U.S.), koalas and polar bears.

But for those looking for a truly unique animal encounter, travel 32 miles northeast of the zoo to another Zoological Society of San Diego facility – the 1,800-acre San Diego Wild Animal Park. While the park doesn’t have the variety of the zoo (it has about 3,500 animals representing 260 species), it gives you an the experience of an African safari.

Near the city of Escondido, the San Diego Wild Animal Park began in 1969 as a breeding facility for rare and endangered species, and that still is its main function. Originally, breeding with the eventual hope of reintroducing the animals into their natural habitat was the only purpose of the preserve. When the expense of feeding all the animals became overwhelming in 1972, the park opened its gates to the public. Still, the park is designed first for the animals, and second for the people who come to observe them.

Whatever your beliefs about keeping animals in captivity, the park has a number of breeding success stories and is recognized throughout the world for its efforts. Thirty-three endangered species have successfully bred here, and the park is considered the authority in breeding rhinos. The male southern white rhino who lives in the park has sired 50 offspring over 13 years, helping to save the species.

More than half of the endangered California condors in existence were hatched at the facility. In 2000, the park opened Condor Ridge, a North American wilderness exhibit that focuses on a dozen rare and endangered native species and the story of their survival in the wild. Even though the park has worked with the birds for years, this was the first time visitors were able to view the California condor, North America’s largest flying bird.

The park’s breeding efforts have been successful in part because its large acreage allows for huge enclosures, which make the animals feel more at home and, therefore, they behave accordingly. That’s the draw for visitors, too; territorial disputes and competition, herding behavior, courtship and defensive behavior are all on display.

Animals that are naturally found together are kept together; discrete fences separate the animals that are found in different regions of the world (East Africa, Asian Plains, South Africa, etc.). Entire herds of Cape buffalo, giraffes, rhinos, wildebeests and other hoofed mammals are among the hundreds of animals you can see roaming the scenic rolling landscape of East Africa. You won’t, however, see predators among the mix of birds and mammals. A few acres are set aside for zoo-like enclosures with smaller occupants as well as predators.

The large habitats make up the majority of the park, though, and are measured in acres rather than feet.

More than 1,800 acres means a lot of walking, but the best way to start your visit at the park is by riding the Wgasa Bush Line Railway, a 5-mile electric monorail ride that shows visitors many areas that can only be seen from the railway. The ride is a 55-minute guided tour of the major field enclosures of Asia and Africa. Safari guides provide narrative and stop the train to point out interesting behaviors or newborns.

Taking the first train of the day when the temperatures are cooler gives you the best opportunity to see the animals out and active. It also gives you an overview of the park and a chance to decide which enclosures you want to visit by foot. Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars, and if you plan to take pictures a zoom lens will be helpful. For the best view you should try to sit on the right side of the open-air train.

Many visitors opt to take the train ride several times throughout the day. You’re sure to see and hear something different every time. Although you can see the majority of the park on the train ride, you’ll miss out if you don’t visit some of the other areas, such as Lorikeet Landing where you can invite colorful birds to perch on your arm and drink nectar from your hand. The park also has a bird show and an elephant show daily, as well as special events throughout the year.

Sign up for the photo caravan tour for an even more authentic safari. No more than 10 visitors ride in the back of a flatbed truck (outfitted with seats) into the animal enclosures, where you have great photo opportunities and the chance to feed some animals – like Rocky the giraffe. The pace is slower than the train ride, and knowledgeable guides provide in-depth details on the park’s animals and breeding efforts.

The opportunity to get within feet of a number of massive, endangered species is well worth the additional cost. There are three choices of tours: Tour 1 goes to East Africa and the Asian Plains, offering the chance to feed giraffes and rhinos; Tour 2 goes to South Africa and the Asian Waterhole, stopping to feed giraffes; and Tour 3 goes to all four enclosures, stopping to feed giraffes and rhinos. The fee is $98.95 for the shorter tours that last a little under two hours, $145 for the three-hour tour.

The three-hour photo caravan tour won’t give you much time to see the rest of the exhibits; it might be better for a subsequent visit to the park. If you take the shorter tour, you’ll still need to plan wisely in order to see everything.

The Wild Animal Park is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended summer hours. San Diego’s ideal climate allows most of the animals to live outdoors year-round, but the animals are often more active during the winter months when temperatures are somewhat cooler.

General admission is $26.50 per adult (seniors are $23.85), $19.50 for children ages 3 to 11. Children 2 and under are free. This includes all shows, exhibits and the railway. Parking is $6 per vehicle. If you plan to visit the park and the zoo, check into a two-park discount ticket.

This article was published in 2003 – please check for updates to tours, activities, fees and operating hours.

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Photography :: Gallery of Mizzou images

I’ve created a new gallery — a collection of some of my favorite images from the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia. I’ve made quite a few visits over the years so it was tough to narrow down my choices.

Use this link to visit the gallery, or you can choose Galleries from the menu at the top of the page.






Posted in Photography

Writing :: King Air magazine cover article on Children’s Mercy Hospital

Here’s a fun project for a publication I just started writing for this January. I had the opportunity to tell the story of one of the country’s leading neonatal and pediatric transport teams for the March cover of King Air magazine.

Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City is the only pediatric hospital in a region bordered by St. Louis, Denver, Omaha and Little Rock. The hospital’s Critical Care Transport team is one of only four in the United States with a dedicated fixed-wing airplane — a Beechcraft King Air B200. The airplane has a custom exterior and interior designed specifically to transport and provide critical care for babies and children.

King Air magazine is published by Village Press. The publication’s audience includes owners of the more than 7,000 Beech King Air turboprop aircraft that have been delivered since 1964, as well as prospective owners.

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