Ascend Integrated Media editor mixes journalism and marketing
By Joe Thiesfeld
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kevin Selders is an editor for Ascend Integrated Media, which is based in Overland Park, Kan. The company specializes in creating custom digital, mobile, multimedia and print content for its clients. Selders’ responsibilities include writing articles, editing content and working with clients to produce media that is both journalism and marketing.
“We typically produce three daily newspapers for each annual meeting or convention,” Selders said. “We also often produce a preview and/or post edition of the paper, which are mailed to members before or after the event.”
According to Selders, the newspapers often use electronic media components along with the print version. In order to produce the newspapers for the client a team of journalists travel to the city of the meeting, set up a newsroom and begin covering the events.
“We write most of the content and take most of the photos ourselves, but we often hire local freelance writers and/or photographers to help,” Selders said. “If the project has an eMedia component, we’ll send the top stories and photos to our eMedia department back home once we finish the daily.”
The typical day while reporting on a convention, according to Selders, begins at 8 a.m. to cover the sessions and speakers. Each day they write stories on two to three of the events. At 7 p.m., each night, the edited copy and layout of the paper is approved by the client. Once finished, the paper is taken to a local printer by a production person. The others on the team go back to their hotel rooms and begin editing the electronic version of the paper, which was put together by the eMedia department. This process “can take two to three hours,” Selders said.
“Most of our clients are medical, but we also produce/have produced newspapers for other nonmedical clients, including McDonald’s, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the American Film Institute,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to present accurate, useful information to the membership of the associations we work with and communicate the messages they want their membership to hear.”
Before working at Ascend, Selders, was as a reporter at The Olathe News in Olathe, Kan. He worked there for seven years, five years of which was spent covering education and business.
“I’d suggest being open to writing about subjects you’re not too excited about,” Selders said. “I swore in college I would never cover education or business. After graduation, I started at The Olathe News and they had me cover education and business. I ended up enjoying most of it, and it’s led me to where I am today.”
He left the paper as a features writer and columnist. According to Selders his decision to leave, apart from the low pay, was due to the instability of newspapers, which were slow to embrace the Internet as a valuable asset. He believes newspapers and magazines – with the help of new devices like tablet PCs – will last as long as they remain creative.
“I enjoyed the work, but the pay was horrible — especially for a growing family,” he said. “The economy started tanking, and newspapers began cutting back. Our former sports editor left to work at Ascend, and he knew I was looking for something different. He helped me get an interview, and I got the job. A year later The Olathe News went from a daily to a weekly. The following year it essentially folded.”
Although he enjoys doing something new every day, the job at Ascend isn’t without its frustrations. Selders mentions two awkward elements he encounters most often. The first is that clients have their own writing styles apart from the Associated Press. Frequently Selders is involved with several projects at once, each with its own writing style to adhere to. “Jumping back and forth between styles can be tricky,” he said.
“The other frustration, and I’d say the major one, is the client who doesn’t understand our job,” he said. “Our client contacts who don’t have a background in journalism often don’t understand how much time we need on our end to do the job well. They also lack good news judgment.”
Despite the challenges, Selders said that finding and writing about exciting topics, which also serve the reader, make the job worthwhile. “Everything else will fall into place, and you’ll love your job.”
“Aside from traveling to some cool places, taking pictures of famous politicians, athletes, movie stars, rock/rap stars, etc., some of the most memorable work has involved covering interesting speakers, fascinating speeches by people I’ve never heard of,” Selders said. “When you go into a session not knowing what’s going to happen and you walk away feeling inspired, informed and creative, that’s the best part. Then you get to pass all of that on to the readers.”