Features editor says networking is key to finding sources
By Kelsey Haugen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For Betsie Freeman, the most challenging part of her job as an editor is not having enough time in the day.
Freeman has been the features editor at the Omaha World-Herald for the past four years, but she has worked there for 24 years. After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Freeman got a job as a night copy editor at the World-Herald. Then she became a copy editor in the features department and later a reporter.
But her passion has been working with reporters as an editor in the features department. She started out as the assistant features editor and was promoted to the section’s top job.
She’s learned a lot in all of those different positions including to be prepared for something bad to happen.
“You have to be flexible and make sure you have contingency plans,” Freeman said in a phone interview. “If one thing falls through, make sure you have a way to get things done.”
To avoid potential problems, Freeman works closely with two assistant editors and all of her feature reporters.
“I help them (the reporters) with story formation, and I work with others in the newsroom to figure out how our pages will be designed,” Freeman said.
One of the biggest challenges she faces with reporters is getting them to branch out and talk to new people. She said some of them continually go back to the same sources instead of searching for new ones.
Freeman’s advice to keep aspiring journalists from repeating this mistake is to “make sure you network with lots of people to develop a giant base of sources.”
Every day, Freeman strives to include a variety of stories in the section so anyone can find at least one piece they want to read. Even when the subject of a story is boring, she encourages the reporter to write about it in a way that will interest readers.
In order to have a mix of stories, Freeman must constantly be thinking about what to cover.
“You need to have lots and lots of ideas and be curious,” she said.
Although there are several kinds of feature writing, Freeman tends to favor dining news. Sometimes she even writes for that section herself. Her latest post is a holiday one called “12 Days of Cookies.”
But Freeman also loves stories that have an element of human-interest, which is a category most feature pieces fit into. Profiles are her favorite.
“I’m kind of a sentimental person,” Freeman said. “So I really like stories about people — who they are, what they do and what they love.”