Farm Progress editor pioneer in agricultural journalism
By Emma Likens
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jessica Lavicky, e-content managing editor for Farm Progress, is a journalism pioneer. As a student, her natural curiosity led her to experiences in print journalism, photography and broadcast, which helped her land her first job after college.
Lavicky was practicing convergence, combining various forms of media, before convergence was cool.
A diverse background
Lavicky got her start during high school where she was the editor of both the school newspaper and yearbook. She also worked part time at her local paper, the Banner Press, where she covered foreign exchange students in her hometown.
Journalism was a natural fit for Lavicky in college because of her passion for writing and reporting. She studied photography and journalism at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Neb., before transferring to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo., where she studied visual journalism. She worked SCC’s newspaper, The Challenger, as a photographer and reporter. She also gained experience at the Wymore Arbor State weekly newspaper, where her duties included advertising, circulation and layout. This gave her a chance to work on all aspects of the paper using the current technology of the day, cutting, waxing and pasting. Lavicky also got her first taste of broadcasting and online journalism while working for Northwest’s student newspaper, The Missourian.
Her wide range of experiences in print, broadcast and online journalism helped Lavicky land her first job at the Omaha World-Herald in 2006, where she worked on design and pagination for the Midlands section and later as an online editor. Lavicky moved to e-content managing editor for Farm Progress in 2010.
Farm Progress owns and manages 20 agricultural magazines, most of which are based in the Midwest, and published by state or region. All the magazines are monthly, although each has new content published online daily. Lavicky aims for between one and five new content pieces for each magazine every day, all of which she edits before they go online.
The single point of entry
While Lavicky doesn’t have a formal education in agricultural journalism, she grew up on a farm and has a good understanding of the agricultural industry. She said this has helped her immensely while working for Farm Progress. Lavicky handles all content that goes online, including all the video and photography on the 20 websites Farm Progress owns. She describes herself as the “single point of entry” for online content.
Lavicky also oversees Farm Progress’s social media presence. She monitors Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. She said handheld technology and social media have given journalism a complete 180 turn and changed the “whole news mentality.” Reporters once looked for a news angle or spin for their stories, but are now looking for stories that would make a good tweet or profile picture.
A typical day for Lavicky starts with checking her email and social media sites. She then goes through all the daily posts for the day. Lavicky said the most time-consuming part of her day consists of working on search engine optimization campaigns. These studies use Google Analytics to understand key words readers use to search for news, which reporters then incorporate into their articles. This can be very difficult because the list of key words is continually changing.
Lavicky also devotes a large portion of her time to researching and writing white papers, which are free reports on agricultural topics and issues.
Another part of Lavicky’s job includes writing e-newsletters. Each of the 20 magazine websites has a morning e-newsletter, and Farm Progress has an evening e-newsletter covering all the publications. This e-newsletter goes out regionally to 70,000 subscribers.
Lavicky also maintains her own Farm Progress blog, the Daily Dig. She said her posts are “off the cuff” and witty. She blogs about her own personal experiences and her agricultural background. She also edits blog posts for the other reporters at Farm Progress, who blog about everything from policy to farm life.
Advice for aspiring journalism students
Lavicky’s curiosity led her to diversify her experiences, which helped her stand out while interviewing for jobs. Today’s reporters don’t just report stories, they also take photos and post stories online or to social media. Lavicky stressed the importance of having a diverse skill set.
Farm Progress has had a variety of interns, some knowledgeable about agriculture and with no background in agriculture but with outgoing personalities. Lavicky said the best interns had a good combination of both background and personality.
Lavicky also encouraged students to get involved with different associations and build their personal brands. She said people like to see faces and make connections when working with reporters. “Everyone wants their story to be heard,” so “come in person and be personable.”