Editor uses her own magazine to launch entertainment media career

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Shirley Halperin, editor of news for the Hollywood Reporter and music editor for Billboard.

By Harper Lundgren
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Taking her own route to success, Shirley Halperin, news director at The Hollywood Reporter and music editor at Billboard, found her niche in journalism right away.

Halperin attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick as a history major on a 4 1/2 year plan and started her career without graduating. She worked for the school paper and began her own entertainment blog called Smug. Finding her love for music, Halperin turned her blog into a magazine and ran it for five years.

She’s been blogging and writing since she left college. She spent time writing for Idol Tracker, an entertainment blog, and for Us Weekly in her career.

But her love for history put her in the news room, Halperin said. She’s intrigued by  the way people handle life now compared to how they have in the past. And breaking news gives her a competitive rush. In college, Halperin also found a love for theater and music. With all of these passions, she took her future into her own hands.

“I totally went the opposite way and started as an entrepreneur for my own magazine,” Halperin said, “and then went to work for a mainstream magazine.”

Being an editor of her own publication was just the beginning of her career. Her success took her to publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and Wenner Media. Now, she splits her time between Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. She also has written a book called “Top Line” that focuses on the journalism behind the entertainment.

“Time flies when you’re stressing out,” Halperin said. She starts her day at 7:00 a.m. with a meeting in New York. Then she’s checking her 100 to 200 emails. Her priorities include finding pieces, editing stories, setting up layouts and the overall design of the magazine. Living in New York creates a non-stop day, especially when The Hollywood Reporter isn’t exactly a daily commute. Never stopping is the lifestyle she prefers.

Her world revolves around the music industry. Legal cases, money, who goes to what concert and news are what she curates for her publications. “It’s a really big business that’s shifting right now,” Halperin said about the entertainment industry.

Being deeply involved and talking with musicians is just one of the many perks of her job.

Her passions are clear. “I am kind of a newshound, and I like breaking news and being competitive with really established publications like The New York Times; I love playing in the big leagues, the music industry and what a screwed up place it is,”she said.

When asked about the challenges, Halperin hardly hesitated. “Working in print is very challenging; it’s a different time. The production world doesn’t jive with the digital world,” Halperin said. She has a hard time getting the digital people to cooperate with the print people and vice versa. Print and digital run on different clocks. As an editor, she needs to make sure the publication is running smoothly.

Halperin’s advice for future entertainment lovers is to spend time on the journalism side of things. Halperin often refers to how the world of journalism as shifting, not only with a move to digital but with ethics. Her main concern lies with how “wild westing,” a term she used to refer to bloggers who are appearing too often in publications. She believes there is a time and place for everything. Knowing the rules of the newsroom should be a main concern.

“Really learn proper journalism, what’s right and wrong, what the rules are and good ethics,” Halperin said. Even though she didn’t finish school, she values the ethics lessons she learned while there. “It’s a bit of a dying breed but still needed.”

Fine arts major detours from Broadway dream to Nebraska job

Jeanne Schieffer Photo courtesy of NPPD

Jeanne Schieffer
(Photo courtesy of NPPD)

By Alyssa Theilen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jeanne Schieffer is proof that picking a versatile major is a key to success.

Her fine arts major from the University of South Dakota didn’t get her exactly where she had planned, but she is glad it got her to Columbus, Nebraska, where she is the corporate communications and public relations manager at the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD).

Initially, Schieffer dreamed of going to New York City to put her love for English and theater to work after college. But the reality of a big city made this South Dakota native timid. Schieffer decided she could put her major to use somewhere other than Broadway.

After graduation, Schieffer was offered a job as an English teacher in Norfolk, Nebraska. The pay for teachers was much higher in Nebraska than South Dakota, so she took the job. After seven years of teaching, Schieffer decided teaching wasn’t fulfilling enough for her and she needed a change. She had previous experience publishing small pieces for students and freelancing for a small advertising firm. But she realized she was far too busy doing it all as a mother of two.

Toward the end of her teaching career, Schieffer toured the power company for a school-related event. It had a communications position open. Her love for creativity and wish to use writing in a dynamic way drove her to apply.

NPPD is the state’s largest utility company providing electricity to 86 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. More than 2,000 employees in over 30 facilities in the state serve over 600,000 Nebraskans. Its revenues total about $1 billion a year.

Being the corporate communications and public relations manager, while leading a team of 17 people, keeps Schieffer busy. Her team members are media specialists. Schieffer uses social media, such as Facebook, daily. Her team creates advertisements, generates press releases and produces a daily newsletter.

“An open door policy is very important to me,” Schieffer said. She likes to be visible to her team and available to advise, to answer questions, and to approve a video or story. Before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m. she makes phone calls, replies to emails, and keeps organized to be as productive during business hours as possible. No work day is normal for her; every day brings new tasks.

Schieffer has seen major changes in the industry since she first began her communications job in 1995. Now more than ever, Schieffer said it is important to show you can balance life, jobs, clubs and school all at once. If you cannot show this to potential employers, finding a job upon graduation will be difficult.

“Be willing to show initiative,” she said, “and always go beyond the required.”

Sports editor focuses on accuracy in fast-paced industry

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David Wright, deputy sports editor at The Denver Post (Photo courtesy of David Wright)

Cody Nagel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The Denver Post deputy sports editor, David Wright, credits hard work and hours of devotion to his success in the journalism industry.

Wright graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1983. During his time at the university he worked for the Columbia Missourian, the daily newspaper produced by the School of Journalism.

Following his graduation, Wright began working for the Columbia Daily Tribune as the assistant sports editor.

He left the Columbia Daily Tribune five years later for the The Denver Post as a page designer before being promoted to deputy sports editor.

His primary responsibilities are coverage of the Denver Broncos (NFL) and Colorado Avalanche (NHL). Wright is also the assigning editor for Denver University hockey and lacrosse.

Wright said that a difference between being a sports editor compared to a news editor is the amount of national competition. Because the Broncos and Avalanche are professional sports teams, Wright said media companies like ESPN and Yahoo Sports produce more  national coverage that The Denver Post has to compete against.

“You are always trying to stay on top of getting stories posted, getting tweets posted as quickly as you possibly can,” Wright said. “It’s a little bit different from that standpoint.”

Although it is an adrenaline rush for Wright, it is not necessarily a part of the job he is thrilled about.

In-depth features are what drew Wright to journalism in the first place.

“From an adrenaline point, it’s not as meaningful as doing something with more reporting,” Wright said.

Being inquisitive is a trait Wright said makes a good editor. He always asks his writers questions in order to gather more and better in-depth knowledge of a subject.

A day-to-day aspect of Wright’s position is taking time to consider whether the information his staff produces is accurate, even in the race to be first.

“Maybe there are times when you have to step back and ask yourself questions about the source,” Wright said. “You have to be certain that you are relying on good sources.”

An important role of an editor is making sure the story is understandable for any reader. Wright said he hopes a reader with no knowledge of football or the Broncos will be able to read a story and understand it.

To get stories to readers, Wright and his staff use social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter.

“It is very important and something that anybody in the business right now is paying attention to,” Wright said.

A challenge that the entire industry is facing today is coming up with a way to be more profitable.

“There is always a challenge of covering a story and going in depth as you can,” Wright said, “but newspapers and magazines are hurting in this point in time because basically more people are getting the product online and our numbers are dwindling for subscriptions.”

Wright believes the biggest challenge is finding a way to continue to produce good journalism while modifying the ways it is presented to readers.

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Mary Kay Roth is passionate about making a difference at LPS

By Amber Wright
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mary Kay Roth is the director of communications at Lincoln Public Schools. In that role, she has many roles including managing social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram along with handling print and video material. She also deals with newspaper reporters, edits documents and works with the board of education.

Mary Kay Roth, Lincoln Public Schools Director of Communications

Mary Kay Roth, Lincoln Public Schools director of communications

If you were to tell the young Roth in college that she would be on the other side of reporting — dealing with reporters — she wouldn’t have believed it.

Roth triple-majored at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in philosophy, journalism and English. Her goal when she graduated from college was to be a reporter at The New York Times.

After graduation, Roth worked as a newspaper reporter for the Beatrice Daily Sun, then moved to Florida to work for the Lakeland Ledger. She moved to upstate New York as an environment and feature reporter for what was then the Binghamton News Press.

Eventually, Roth moved back to Lincoln to settle down. She worked at the Lincoln Journal Star and covered the environment. During her last five years at the paper, she switched to the education beat. After having two children, her interests had changed. Her interest for education began so moving to her current job seemed natural.

“It was hard at that point; it was a different world,” Roth said when talking about becoming a writer.

Roth loved writing, but she knew it would be difficult to land a job at a magazine as a writer. She didn’t know it then, but she loved to tell people’s stories.

“I love how you can put words together and do magical things,” Roth said. “I’m passionate about making a difference.”

Having experience reporting and dealing with reporters has helped Roth see news from both sides. Newspaper reporters want the scoop as soon as possible, but for Roth, the safety of staff and students come first.

“Open the door and be transparent,” Roth said her philosophy is when it comes to reporters. “News reporters can make a difference.”

Social media is growing every day. It has become a great source for breaking news everywhere. Being quick is an important factor, but being thoughtful is another huge factor Roth stresses.

When Roth was a reporter she relied heavily on copy editors. Now having no copy editor at her position at Lincoln Public Schools, she has created a mental checklist that she follows. Here are her steps:

  • Look for clarity.
  • Craft a clear opening.
  • Ask yourself if the story flows well
  • Check for spelling, grammar and AP style (don’t use spellcheck)

“Writing is a valuable commodity,” Roth said. “Reporting isn’t the same as it used to be. I’m not sure I know what is going to happen with newspapers. I hope they continue.”

Roth’s advice to college students:  “Don’t narrow your focus on what you want to do. You can do a lot of things if you keep your options broad in your head and have as many experiences as you can.”

 

 

Retired Lincoln Journal Star editor didn’t need journalism degree

By Julia Oestmann
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Kathleen Rutledge, editor-in-chief at the Lincoln Journal Star 2001-2007 (Photo: courtesy of the Lincoln Journal Star)

Journalism was a passion Kathleen Rutledge didn’t know was calling until a few years after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in English.

When Rutledge was laid off from her job working with developmentally disabled children, she went back to school to take a few graduate-level courses in journalism. Despite never graduating from the master’s program she was technically enrolled in, her illustrious career at the Lincoln Journal and Lincoln Journal Star consisted of positions at almost every level of the newspaper hierarchy, including editor-in-chief.

Rutledge was 24 when one of her professors at UNL helped her get a job in the Lincoln Journal newsroom. With virtually no real-world experience in the journalism, she began as the newspaper’s death and weather clerk, and floated among other reporting positions.

“It’s all consuming if you’re passionate about what you’re doing,” she said, “because there’s always another story you can get. There’s always another angle you can nail down.”

It was an opening for statehouse reporter that truly ignited Rutledge’s passion for journalism. During a time when it was still unusual for women to be given “hard news beat” assignments, she said the Lincoln Journal managing editor originally planned to ask Rutledge’s husband for permission before offering her the job. It was one of the other editors, she said, who convinced him that this was unnecessary.

Rutledge spent 12 years covering the Nebraska Legislature and government. Though she refers to these years as her favorite among the years she spent at the paper, she eventually knew it was time for a change.

“You get to the point where you’ve heard every issue, and you know all of the personalities, and it just sort of becomes routine,” Rutledge said.

And so her career as an editor began.

Rutledge spent two years as an opinion editor, but when the Lincoln Journal merged with the Lincoln Star in 1995, her position was eliminated and she was named city editor of the Lincoln Journal Star. The abnormal circumstances brought by the merger meant Rutledge had been appointed to a position for which she had essentially no experience. She was used to learning on the job, however, and was promoted to managing editor two years later.

“Management,” she said, “is almost more consuming because you’re trying to accomplish your goals through the talents of other people.” It’s a job that takes more psyche and involves many more factors, but nevertheless Rutledge enjoyed the challenge.

In 2001, Rutledge took over as the top editor at the Lincoln Journal Star. As a former statehouse reporter, Rutledge said the controversy she was least prepared for was the public backlash easily triggered by the sports page — particularly by coverage of the Cornhusker football program. In 2003, the Lincoln Journal Star reported that Cornhusker football coach Frank Solich was being ousted by the university’s new athletic director Steve Pederson.

“There was just a firestorm of public reaction to that story,” Rutledge said. Evoking outrage from Husker fans across the state, the paper even drew harsh remarks from Harvey Perlman, who was the University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor at the time. Rutledge defended her staff and the paper for reporting the truth about the athletic department’s decision before a statement had been issued to the public.

This would be neither the first nor the last time her paper’s sports section would be scrutinized. That same year Rutledge announced that, out of respect for Native people, the paper would no longer be using the term “redskin” to refer to Washington’s professional football team. This policy came about when the issue was raised by several Native American employees who believed using the name was wrong.

In response to her statement, the Lincoln Journal Star was berated on sports talk shows across the nation, Rutledge said.

The decision didn’t just elicit negative responses, however. The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA) recognized the paper’s coverage of all Native issues by presenting the Lincoln Journal Star with a star quilt. Rutledge said this was among her proudest moments as editor.

Rutledge retired from the Lincoln Journal Star in 2007, but said that elements of both journalism and editing remain critical in her life as she works with different organizations and nonprofits. One of her most recent projects includes helping the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute with marketing and messaging.

Critical thinking skills are important no matter which industry one joins, Rutledge said, “and the ability to stand outside of a story, so you’re looking at it as objectively as you can, and thinking about ways to verify and document.”

Rutledge said she’s fascinated by looking for new directions to take a piece of writing. “If you have time to do that,” she said. “I mean sometimes you’re in the Legislature, and you’ve just got 15 minutes to write a story.”

Rural radio broadcaster loves the variety of his job

By Jeremy Davis
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tyler Cavalli knew since high school that he wanted to do something in broadcasting.

Tyler Cavalli, news editor and anchor for KRVN

Tyler Cavalli is a news editor and anchor for KRVN radio

When Cavalli started job shadowing at KPMX, a radio station in Sterling, Colorado, he knew he had found his calling. He loved sports but instead of playing them, he wanted to talk about them. Since his high school didn’t have opportunities for students to announce at games, he job shadowed and did color commentary for the station to build experience.

Getting involved with the station really made him fall in love with sports broadcasting. He knew it was something that he wanted to pursue as a career.

Cavalli majored in broadcasting at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. At UNK, he was the sports director for three years, which gave him experience covering different events.

Cavalli got a job with KRVN, a radio station in Lexington, Nebraska, after he graduated and has been there since. He is a news editor and anchor at the station. Along with news coverage and some production work, Cavalli hosts a country music show on Sunday afternoons.

Even though Cavalli grew up on a cattle ranch near Lodgepole, Nebraska, he said that he hadn’t thought of going into rural radio. “It never really crossed my mind,” he said.

“You have to be talented in more aspects than one,” Cavalli said. “In this industry, you must be able to write, edit and even shoot video.”

In the day-to-day work at a radio station, everyone has to write and edit their own stories.  “In radio there really isn’t an editor,” he said.

“KRVN has a huge variety to what they cover,” Cavalli said. “With agricultural and regular news, sports and music there are many things to pay attention to.”

On a normal day at KRVN, Cavalli starts off managing all of KRVN’s social media. This includes updating the station’s Twitter, Facebook and website. In addition to the station’s Twitter account, he also updates his personal KRVN account. Along with social media, he also does promos for KRVN-sponsored events like concerts.

The rest of the day Cavalli works on getting news compiled for newscasts in the afternoon.  If there is severe weather, he will often go on scene. He said it is exciting when he gets to cover weather and fires live.

“Much of my day is consumed with doing interviews,” Cavalli said. “Interviews are a great way to get a personal look into the story we are covering in a newscast.”

At 3 p.m., Cavalli starts doing newscasts. The newscasts are usually recorded and then produced. Doing newscasts this way allows for all of the information and interview sound bites to be put together seamlessly. Cavalli said that if he has to do a newscast live he will, but he likes to have them done ahead of time so he is free if a big story breaks or if he needs to go cover something.

Cavalli loves his job and loves working for KRVN. He encourages students going into journalism to do as much as they can.

“Anything you can do to get experience helps in the long run. Even if it is just some job shadowing.”

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Daily Herald editor reflects on life on the copy desk

By Elyse McFeggan
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sean Stangland Photo

Sean Stangland is a senior copy editor for the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago paper. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Herald.)

Growing up, Sean Stangland would read the Daily Herald  in suburban Chicago to stay up to date on the news of the world around him.  The newspaper was part of who he is.

Stangland, who grew up in Wheeling, Illinois, a small northwestern suburb of Chicago, studied journalism at Eastern Illinois University. Stangland wrote for the student-run paper, The Daily Eastern News,  all four years he attended college. He wrote movie reviews and got promoted to be the movie section editor for two years. Eastern Illinois University is a rather small school so resources were limited, and Stangland gained experience doing many different jobs in the newsroom.

Stangland graduated from college in 2001 and was set to begin an internship working for Walt Disney World. He was supposed to leave for the internship on September 12, 2001, but with the terrorist attacks the day before, he decided he should stay and work in news.

His college adviser told him about an internship at the Daily Herald, the third largest paper in Illinois. Stangland knew he wanted to work there. He took the internship on the copy desk and was hired for a full-time position right after the internship.

Now, he’s  a senior copy editor. He never does the same thing from day to day. But his primary job is to design the front page.

Every day at 2:45 p.m. he attends a meeting with editors who handle news from different suburbs. The Daily Herald is a paper that represents all of the suburbs of Chicago, so there are different stories based on which suburbs are affected. At the meeting,  the editors discuss what stories should be on the front page of the paper. The meetings can last anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. Stangland, in addition to designing the front page, must read stories, write headlines, design pages including the weather page, writes teasers, and occasionally work as a  sports editor.

The most common editing error he corrects is lottery numbers. Writers often get the numbers incorrect, which can lead to very upset readers.

But his favorite part about being a senior copy editor for the Daily Herald is handling big news stories. He likes the challenge of making hard news visually appealing.

He also enjoys working with his best friends. Working long hours on news means the staff  have all become very close friends.

In his free time, Stangland writes a weekly entertainment column for the Daily Herald. This is atypical of a senior editor, but he is driven to write the column by his passion for movies and television shows. He aspires to be a film critic someday. The paper’s current film critic is retiring, and Stangland hopes to be considered for that position.

His advice for aspiring editors: “Don’t be afraid to say you’re willing to help,” he said in a phone interview.  “It doesn’t mean you’ll get paid more, but if you’re willing to throw your hat in many rings it will benefit your career. The more things you can do the more valuable you are.”

 

 

 

 

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