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Managing editor pumps life into small-town publication

By Thomas Shelly
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Darrell Wellman is the managing editor at the Nemaha County Herald.

Darrell Wellman is the managing editor at the Nemaha County Herald. University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Darrell Wellman mastered many skills to deliver news to residents of cozy Auburn, Neb.

“We kind of have to be a jack of all trades,”  said Wellman, the managing editor at the Nemaha County Herald.  “A news editor and I are primarily responsible for the news, sports and photographs.”

After being published by his elementary school newsletter, Wellman knew that he wanted to have some sort of writing or journalism career, he said in a phone interview.

His passion for writing became apparent in college. He knew he wanted to write but was not sure what he wanted to do. Wellman spent five years at Peru State College in Peru, Neb., earning degrees in journalism and education.

During his college career, Wellman worked various jobs at the Pedagogian, the student publication (now known as the Peru State Times). Working many different jobs proved useful to Wellman when he decided to pursue a journalism career.

While in college, Wellman also worked part time at the local newspaper, the Nemaha County Herald. He was hired onto the Herald’s staff in May 1982 and has been there since.

The Nemaha County Herald is a weekly publication that covers a few towns in southeast Nebraska. At the paper, Wellman not only edits other people’s stories, he also reports on town events and even takes photos.

Despite all of the different dimensions of his job, Wellman said that the most gratifying part is hearing that he did a good job covering a story or explaining something well. He is also humbled by the individuals who felt they were misquoted or did not like a story that was published in the Herald.

Working at a small circulation paper in a tight knit community has advantages.

“We have people who know us who are more than willing to give us ideas that they think are newsworthy,” Wellman said. “Granted, we can’t pursue them all. But, they are forthcoming with ideas; it’s helpful.”

The printed publication is a great way to get news out to the community, but there are individuals who no longer live in Nemaha County but want to stay on top of  local news. That’s where the online version of the paper comes in handy.

“I’m sure it makes a difference when you have people who moved to different states because there are so many challenges with the postal service,” Wellman said.

The Internet has a huge role in how the public receives and interacts with the news. Many people get their news online and the journalism industry had to adapt to that.

“If you’re not willing to change, the world is going to change around you and you’re going to get left in the dirt,” Wellman said. “The newspaper business and print media is a tough business. Do your best to stay relevant and on top of the technology.”

Wellman offers tips for future journalists:

  • “Whatever you’re writing, it has to be the facts. It has to be accurate.”
  • “If you make appointments in this business; you’ve got to be there.”

Wellman suggested that internships and other part-time jobs are very important for breaking into journalism.

Even after 30  years in the industry, Wellman continues to adjust to the constantly evolving industry. Despite long days and the multiple responsibilities that come with being the managing editor at a hometown paper, he still pushes to exceed expectations and publish accurate news for the community.

When asked what a normal day is like, Wellman said, “I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m still in this business, you just never know… If you think you know what your day is going to be like, there is always that surprise.”

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