Editor for beef publication places the emphasis on the audience
By Ellen Hoffschneider
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Shauna Hermel’s favorite days aren’t spent behind her desk; she prefers standing in a pasture.
As editor for the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin, Hermel cherishes the moments she gets to spend with her audience: the people who raise, show or sell Angus cattle.
“One of the reasons I wanted to get into the agriculture journalism field is that I wanted to contribute some part to the producer’s ability to succeed,” Hermel said in a phone interview.
She does actually spend some time in her office. On an average day, Hermel designs layouts for print and online, edits stories and gives tours of the office to visiting groups. She believes the big difference between working for an agriculture industry publication and a news organization is the attitude toward the audience.
“Where a newspaper may focus on objectivity and reporting the news of the day, we take an involved approach in the success of the readers and their businesses,” she said. “We service a small community, we have 35,000 members, but only 13,000 are actively involved in marketing and registering cattle. We are active in seeking out what readers need. We are very invested in helping the community succeed.”
Hermel grew up on a cattle and hog farm in Missouri. As a high school junior, she took her first journalism class. It was that teacher who inspired Hermel to pursue both of her passions — agriculture and writing. She earned a degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Missouri. It was there that she first received experience with desktop publishing software.
“The first publication I ever laid out using the new technology was a document for the animal science department about caring for pet cats,” she said.
She continued her education at the University of Wisconsin, the only other school at that time to have a graduate degree program in agriculture communications. After earning her master’s degree, she worked eight years for Beef Magazine. As assistant editor, she brought the publication completely into desktop publishing. Then she heard about the open editor position at the Angus Journal.
“I almost didn’t apply because we had a hog farm near Minneapolis and I honestly didn’t think I’d get the position. When I did, it was like coming home. I had been active in the National Jr. Angus Association and had even received scholarships from this great organization.”
Hermel said that while online media has grown, the role of editing has remained constant. She is involved in social media and the online versions of her publications. Hermel believes the work of editors is tied to a role rather than a medium.
“I don’t know that the role of editor has changed as much as the tools are changing,” she said. “Our role is more complex because we have to look at so many different avenues. The role of an editor in my mind is to find that information that is of value to our audience, and to convey that information in a format that is interesting, informative and efficient for them to digest.”
To Hermel that role remains the same, whether the information is read in a glossy magazine or on a mobile phone while checking cattle.