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Lincoln features editor says job is creative, challenging

Features Editor Kathy Steinauer-Smith Lincoln Journal Star

By Michelle Durham
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Since college, Kathy Steinauer-Smith has had editing in her career plan. A professor helped her find her first job in Iowa City as a copy editor. For the past seven years, she has been at the Journal Star — first as a regional editor and now as features editor.

Steinauer-Smith took a reporting class her sophomore year at the University of Nebraska — Lincoln and hated it. A professor suggested she look into copy editing. Following through with her professor’s suggestion, she took a Dow Jones News Fund internship test and landed a job as a copy editing intern at The Detroit News. After graduating from UNL, she found her first full-time newspaper job in Iowa as a copy editor.

After working at Iowa City, she found another job opportunity in central California in 1997. It was a smaller paper, but she had a chance to become the news editor. In 1998, she switched to a bigger paper in San Bernardino, Calif.  A year later, she moved to Reno, Nev., where she became food editor. Through every job change, Steinauer-Smith always had her husband, a fellow journalist, by her side. They have worked together since her first job in Iowa.

In 2001, her husband was hired at the Journal Star as a regional editor, which meant a move back to Lincoln, Neb. While he worked at the Journal Star, she worked at UNL.  A few years later, her husband was promoted to online editor and Steinauer-Smith was hired as regional editor in 2005.

In 2008, she became the Journal Star’s features editor. Now her husband works for the university.  “It’s weirder to not work together,” she said.

For her, features editing is a lot more fun than news editing. “Features has to be more creative,” she said. It requires more planning, but that is something she excels at.

During her time as an editor, one of the biggest challenges she’s seen at newspapers is the “newsroom has shrunk.” Budget cuts have led to fewer people in newsrooms across the country. The corporate owner of her newspaper, Lee Enterprises, recently filed for bankruptcy. All of that has meant fewer resources including pay freezes.

In other ways, however, journalism has grown. Its reach is greater thanks to the Internet and the growth of social media. Steinauer-Smith said she thinks social media is awesome. She has been using sites like Twitter, which can be used to share news and information, more.

Her advice for aspiring editors: Read a lot. “ Not just journalism but any kind of writing that interests you,” she said. Reading helps journalists — both reporters and editors — recognize different writing styles. Staying engaged with reporters who do a great job can be a learning experience.

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