Nebraska Life editor turned passion into a career he loves
By Nicole M. Rauner
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Alan Bartels loves his job as a field assistant editor of Nebraska Life magazine.
He followed an unusual path to get there.
He grew up in eastern Nebraska and attended high school in Greeley. After graduating, he joined the Army for four years. He was overseas for the Operation Desert Storm and moved to Farwell, Neb., after he returned.
Bartels started working in manufacturing and had no interest in writing at the time, he said in a phone interview. Then, one of Bartels’ employees suggested he write an outdoor activity piece for a local newspaper. His career skyrocketed from there.
“By the time I knew it I was writing for three magazines,” Bartels said.
He started working regularly for the Grand Island Independent newspaper, Trade West, Living Here Magazine and freelanced for numerous publications. He also started exploring photography and won many competitions, including a first place win at the Nebraska State Fair.
“I just bought a camera and studied how other people wrote,” Bartels said about becoming a journalist.
Bartels had always admired Nebraska Life magazine, considering it the highest quality publication in Nebraska. In 2007, his first Nebraska Life story published. The publishers worked closely with him and helped shape his journalism skills for three more years. In 2010, the magazine created a position and approached him about taking the job full time.
The usual approach of a journalist is to get a journalism degree, land internships then get a job. Clearly, Bartels is no poster child for journalism degrees, but he is a perfect example that hard work will get you where you want to go.
“It took me a long time to find out I loved this,” he said, “and then I became passionate about it.”
He was lucky to find a publication that helped him with his writing for so long. Nebraska Life magazine works with freelance photographers and writers to help shape them to reach their full potential.
Bartels talked about covering the Sandhill cranes every year in Nebraska and how to write it differently each time. He suggested getting stories on volunteers and people traveling from all over the world to see the 600,000 majestic cranes.
Other advice Bartels offers to aspiring journalists is to put everything into their work. Learn how to take direction from editors, he said. Constructive feedback is important to the publication and its readers.
Bartels is honored to be where he is today. He credits a small part of his success to his passion and a big part to others who helped him succeed.
“In the Army I was proud to put on my uniform everyday; now I put on my Nebraska Life polo and am just as proud.”