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Scottsbluff Star-Herald editor embraces job’s challenges

By Brett Brown
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

As the editor of the newspaper in the largest city in Nebraska’s panhandle, Steve Fredericks knows both the challenges of editing for a large community and for surrounding smaller communities. His coverage area stretches across three states.

Fredericks has been the editor of the Scottsbluff Star-Herald since 1996. He’s seen many changes in journalism since then.

In a phone interview, Fredericks answered questions about his job and his outlook on journalism’s future.

Q. How did you end up as an editor?

A. My first job was an editor of a weekly paper in Oregon. While I was there, I edited every paper every week and had do a little of everything. I spent 10 years at the weekly before I moved to a local daily paper. When my former boss came from Oregon to Nebraska, he asked me to come with him. I accepted and began working as a copy editor at the Star-Herald. We went through several editors in a short time and the publisher recommended me for the job in 1996.

Steve Fredericks discusses his job as an editor.

Q. What does your typical day look like?

A. The first thing you should understand is that I don’t deal with reporting or photography. My day starts out with a morning staff meeting to plan out the paper. I also write all the editorials for the paper and work with one or two young reporters who I mentor. We are also a part of the Omaha World-Herald’s news network so we send stories through that. I am also responsible for the website, Facebook  and Twitter.

Q. What do you like most about your job?

A. I like that this job is new every day…. There are new stories every day and the issues change very quickly. I get to be a part of those issues and get to be engaged in them. I have an active mind and love to read, so this really is a fantastic job.

Q. What is the most challenging part of your job?

A.  Well, we’re the biggest city in the area and have to cover three states….  Recruiting is a big challenge. It can be hard to get people to come out here to Scottsbluff and see what’s out here because people think there is nothing out here.  That’s just not true, though. I am an avid fisherman and there is excellent fishing out here. There are also plenty of beautiful places and good photo opportunities here. I would certainly say that people’s assumptions that it’s the middle of nowhere out here makes my job more challenging.

Q. How has your job changed since you started it?

A. When I started working in print, I used a manual typewriter. I like the feel of the keys. There’s something about banging out an editorial on one that you just can’t match with a computer keyboard. We also did manual pasting of the letters before sending the paper to the publisher. I was actually the first person to use QuarkXPress (a software design program) at the paper. Quark opened us up to completely new things we could do with the paper. In the last few years, we’ve also moved (to) digital delivery as news has gone mobile.

Q. Where do you see the future of journalism as a whole going?

A. The growth of the Internet along with the rising cost of printing means that eventually it is all going online. There are benefits to this. The Internet is essentially infinite and all of it is searchable. This makes research much easier than it used to be. The problem is that the Internet cannot give people more time. There are still 24 hours in a day. No matter how big the ocean is, you can’t drink it all. No matter how good of a job we do as journalists, people won’t have time for it all.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring editors?

A.  Don’t give it up. There’s a notion out there that journalism is dead that simply isn’t true. If we combine print circulation and website traffic we can see that more people than ever are actually reading. The only thing that has changed is the means of delivery. People will always want news; we just have to figure out the best way to get it to them.

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