Kearney Hub editor says he ‘learns something new every day’
By: Abby Schipporeit
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Mike Konz is the managing editor of the Kearney Hub. He has been in this role for 22 years. His day as an editor typically starts at 7 a.m. and ends around 6:30 p.m. His time is filled with reading, writing, meetings and everything in-between. One of his favorite tasks as editor is working on the editorial page. He writes most of the newspaper’s opinion pieces and also edits the opinion page. In a phone interview, Konz talked about his role as editor, how the industry has changed over the years and skills all journalism students should have.
Q: How has your job changed from when you first started to now?
A: The fundamentals have not changed. I can remember a month after I became a reporter I was driving down the highway after covering a story and I thought to myself, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be cool to have a job where you learn something new every day?’ Then it dawned on me that I have that job. I still have that job where I’m learning something new every day and seeing things that a lot of people don’t get to see.
The complexity of it has changed. Going from printing only a newspaper a day to what we do now has been a shift. Looking back it makes me kind of wistful. It seems like it was very easy to print a newspaper every day. You knew what the rules were and you knew you had a certain amount of time to get things ready for the next publication. Now you are not only feeding paper product, you are also feeding the online and mobile products. You still have the same number of people and same number of hours in a day, but what you do with that time is a lot different and a lot more demanding.
Q: What are some of your greatest challenges as being editor?
A: The biggest challenges I face are keeping the people in my newsroom excited about what they’re doing. I want them to feel like they are really making a difference and that what they are doing is meaningful and important. I think there is no better pleasure in life than having a job where you feel like you are not going to work each day, but instead going to have a great time.
Q: What are some of the most common errors you find when editing?
A: I don’t find very many factual errors. Quite often I find grammatical errors where a sentence might be structured awkwardly or there might be a misspelling or a punctuation problem. Misspellings are probably the biggest error, but you can make an error in just about anything.
Q: How has your job changed as the industry has moved toward more digital news?
A: You have to be a bigger advocate and cheerleader for getting the news to the people as fast as possible and in an appropriate manner. You have to try to report in ways you may have never done before and that sometimes puts you ill at ease. I think the rules for reporting online are slightly different than what’s allowed in print. Where I come from as editor of the opinion page, it seems like things are pretty laissez-faire online compared to the standards on the print side.
Sometimes it’s hard to have the sense of immediacy of getting things posted and using power of the web because you have so many things to do. The Hub is still really strong on the print side. We have a good daily product but we still have a lot of special editions that we print. That commands a lot of attention and resources. Sometimes you have to drag people away from print projects to do things online. It’s kind of a gamble; you always hope it works out.
Q: Do you have Twitter? And what are your views on it?
A: I do not have a Twitter account. Some of my reporters use it and I support that. Being a traditionalist, I’m a little bit worried about news going out that has not been filtered through an editor. We try to be conservative about it. We will tweet sports way faster than we would tweet a scandal at City Hall.
Q: What editing skills should all journalism students have?
A: You must be a critical thinker. You have to look at a story through readers eyes. You have to see that it is clearly written and follows a logical pattern of answering the first question that comes up, followed by the second one and so on. If a story does that, then it needs to be written in an easy to follow way without any tripping points.
I also think that if you want to be an editor, you darn well better know spelling and grammar. There is no substitute for it. However, I don’t know if that is the most important skill you will bring to bear.
Mainly, you just need to have a real questioning and critical mind toward things. In the deadline environment of the newsroom you are going to have to do your best to break out as many errors and holes in stories as you can. As the readers read the paper at their leisure they are going to be able to spot things that you may have missed.
Q: In addition to those skills, is there anything else you look for in a potential job candidate?
A: The most important thing you can hire for is attitude. Not everyone wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I want to sit and read stuff all day long.’ That just doesn’t happen very often. So you have to hire someone that feels like that is the important thing to do and that they are serving a good need.