Journalist chose editing over reporting for more family time
By Jake Sueflohn
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Bill Windler is a journalist who has returned home to his native Milwaukee to do what he loves.
After graduating in 1975 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Windler became a sports reporter in Dubuque, Iowa. About three years later, he headed to Madison, Wis., where he was mainly a writer but got a taste of designing pages.
“Designing is like a puzzle,” said Windler in a phone interview, “and that really appeals to me.”
From there, he went to South Carolina for a three-year stint as an editor before returning to Milwaukee, Wis., to work for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a sports editor.
For Windler, the day starts at 3:30 p.m. when there is a meeting for all the sections. With one person from each department at the meeting, editors decide what to run in the paper. Sports editors meet at 4:30 to map out a budget for the sports section for the day.
“A budget is what stories we want to use and where we use them,” Windler said.
They also look at the long-term budget at these meetings. Next, Windler starts editing stories.
“The reporters and I are in constant communication about things that need to be tweaked for the final run of the article,” he said.
Reporters face challenging deadlines for late night games. Although they typically have a 9 p.m. deadline, a late game means pushing until 11 p.m. at the latest to get the story in. The editor then has until 11:50 p.m. to edit stories before the final deadline.
The shift to online news has changed the way the newsroom works. Newspapers no longer wait for events to be over before publishing stories. Online, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel runs a lead story with a couple of paragraphs and links it to a live blog, so online readers can follow the action in real time. After the event or game ends, the paper publishes a story that recaps the action in its print edition. The shift to online news also has led to a smaller news staff because print advertising revenue is declining. That means everyone does more than before, but Windler said that creates a well-rounded staff.
Asked why he switched from a reporter to an editor, Windler said “the hours of an editor make it easier to be with his family.” Sports reporters, in particular, spend a lot of time on the road following the teams on their beats.
Windler has thee adult children and two grandchildren. “Even though you put in a lot of time as an editor,” he said, “the steady hours and less travel make it a little better for families, I think. It’s not like you don’t work a lot of hours and are basically always on call, but there is less uncertainty.”
And editing has other rewards too. “Among the things I like about being an editor is the fact that you get to deal with all of the beats in sports instead of just one or two,” Windler said. “You get to work with a wide range of people and personalities.”
Editors also must thrive under pressure.
“I enjoy the challenge of deadlines and like the fact that you can put your personal touch on a sports section. You pretty much have the last word, but that’s a big responsibility. It’s never boring, that’s for sure.”