Star Tribune editor learns to adapt to changing field
By Angela Hensel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Working at a major newspaper doesn’t just involve writing stories for Colleen Stoxen.
Stoxen crosses two worlds of journalism as the assistant managing editor for page one of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and as the executive producer of a daily video news show for the Star Tribune’s website called StribCast.
Working with two forms of media keeps Stoxen’s days filled. She has to be efficient to make sure everything gets done.
“The task of publishing all these things on all of these platforms all day long is an incredible amount of work,” Stoxen said in a telephone interview.
To get all of this work done, Stoxen said, she follows a strict time schedule that starts as soon as she sets foot in the newsroom.
Stoxen starts with the video production, she said, and begins emailing reporters as early as 7:30 a.m. to start coming up with ideas. Stoxen said it is critical to get that early start because she tries to finish shooting by around 11 a.m. so the Star Tribune can have the video up on its website by the lunch hour. She said this is when there is the most web traffic.
Once Stoxen finishes up with the videos, it’s time to move on to another media platform — the newspaper. She said as assistant managing editor for page one she makes sure the paper has enough stories for the front page and is constantly working with reporters to see how their stories are developing.
Before she could handle all this work at a major newspaper, Stoxen had to build up her resume over the years.
A graduate of the University of North Dakota, Stoxen said she started off by working at her student newspaper as a reporter, moving up to an editor spot and then to the position of top editor. In addition to working at her student newspaper, Stoxen worked at the Grand Forks Herald as a reporter and completed an internship as a copy editor at a newspaper in California while she was in college.
By keeping busy throughout her college years, Stoxen said she was able to get the experience she needed to prepare her for life after college, which ultimately brought her to the Star Tribune.
But even with that experience, a little bit of luck in timing helped Stoxen get her start at the Star Tribune: Stoxen got her start at the paper when it needed more copy editors when the Minnesota Twins were in the World Series in 1987.
Stoxen then jumped around in different departments before landing her current job.
With all the different areas that Stoxen has worked in, she stresses the importance of being flexible but still keeping the fundamentals of editing.
“We still need people with very strong editing skills, we still need people with very strong data and research skills, but we still need some flexibility to be able to adapt to the changing landscape,” Stoxen said.
Stoxen also said that collaboration in the newsroom is just as critical. With so many different departments and so many different ways that media can be presented, Stoxen said that putting out a cohesive product can be difficult.
“There is no way that we can do that huge amount of work with all of this information in these different versions without having a great deal of collaboration,” Stoxen said.
With all this flexibility, collaboration and demanding work required for journalists, Stoxen said she knows the field is becoming increasingly more difficult. Especially with the decline of print, Stoxen said that journalists today are forced to continually adapt to new forms of media.
Despite these difficulties, Stoxen said she still has a positive outlook for the field.
“Change is always odd and can be tough to navigate, but we think we’re moving on the right path to focus on more digital output,” Stoxen said.
Stoxen, by working with StribCast, is very much a part of that shift to digital output. By offering a variety of news platforms, Stoxen believes readers and viewers can continue to be informed, which will always be a necessity.
“I think there is no other way for people to stay in touch and be informed with the fact that they can be by getting all of that information from a professional news organization,” Stoxen said.
Stoxen said that despite the demands these days, journalism is still rewarding. She has managed to have some memorable experiences over the years.
One was working as a wire reporter at the Star Tribune during 9/11. While people were dealing with their own grief at the time, she still had to work to put together a large amount of news to give readers an accurate account of what was happening.
While such an overwhelming task was difficult, Stoxen said it was rewarding to be able to inform people about such a newsworthy event.
Future journalists still have to act as storytellers, she said, even with a fast-paced demand to get these stories out.
“You need a very strong grasp of the language and how people can read and understand it and how to make stories powerful enough to capture people’s attention,” Stoxen said.
That’s why, Stoxen said, she believes that even with the pressures, people still need journalists.
“I think they will always want to be informed as a society about what’s happening around them,” Stoxen said.