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Videos are vital: ‘The days of writing a story are over’

Wilkinson, Melanie NEW

Melanie Wilkinson, news editor for the York News Times, shares her insight on the future of journalism.

By Kelsey Baldridge
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

To Melanie Wilkinson, “journalism is more than a job, it’s a calling.”

In an interview, Wilkinson, news editor for the York News Times in York, Neb., had plenty of advice for students who are answering the call to journalism.

Her No. 1 tip: “Get used to being in front of the camera.”

“News departments are getting smaller and video is becoming more important in journalism,” Wilkinson said.

Newsrooms have changed since she began her career as a journalist at the Neligh News and Leader in 1988 after graduating from University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Now, social media and technology is  an integral part of journalism.  Social media wasn’t around when Wilkinson started her career and some of the tools she learned aren’t used today.

“One of the first things I learned was how to roll film in the dark,” Wilkinson said. Today, most news photographers shoot pictures digitally. Pages used to be hand-drawn and columns of type were physically pasted on pages. Now, page layout is all done on computers.

In 1999 Wilkinson moved to York, where she started as a reporter for the York News Times.  Now, she has dual roles: news editor and government reporter.

“You never really know what a typical day is going to look like,” she said.  “I have my set meetings like city council and jury trials but you also have to be ready for anything that pops up — fire, car accident, bank robbery.”

Besides proofreading, one of her main jobs as an editor is mentoring some of the younger reporters and helping them realize the importance of creating positive relationships with community contacts.

Working at a small-town newspaper and in a tight-knit community has its advantages. For one, it is easier to get in touch with sources and create a relationship for future stories.

“If you do it right and foster those relationships,” she said,”the contacts will be willing to give more information.”

Wilkinson said an important thing to remember is, “your reputation is huge, especially in a small town.  If you betray someone it’s hard to keep that relationship.”

A small town newspaper also has less competition.

Her newspaper produces videos to correspond with as many stories as possible.  At daily meetings, editors plan for videos so that the videos can appear on the paper’s website, enhancing online stories.

“In a lot of ways our website is kind of like a television station,” Wilkinson said.

If something is newsworthy it appears on the website immediately.  People would rather know the news right away then waiting for it to appear in the morning paper,  she said.

Depending on print alone for community news isn’t enough.  Wilkinson stressed the importance of video, especially in small towns. Videos  provide news that is geared directly toward the happenings within the city limits.

“The days of writing a story are over,” Wilkinson said.

Even so, she’s optimistic about journalism’s future  because it’s a profession that is constantly changing.

“My job is never boring,” she said. “I always wanted to do this.  You get experience with a lot of different things.  You get to see things a lot of people don’t and be the eyes of the public.”

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