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Hastings editor says curiosity is key to good journalism

By Daniel Buhrman
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

When Andy Raun was young, his favorite subjects in school were English, history and political science. But his real passion was newspapers.

Courtesy of the Hastings Tribune

Courtesy of the Hastings Tribune

“I grew up on the Hastings Tribune and Omaha World-Herald,” Raun said in a recent interview. He turned his passion into a career as the regional and farm news editor for the Hastings Tribune.

After graduating from high school in Minden, Neb.,  in 1989, he went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he realized he could major in journalism.

Raun joined the student newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan, early in his career as a journalism student.  Student publications are important and can offer experience to young journalists, he said.

Between his junior and senior year of college, Raun got his first summer internship at the Tribune.  “It was a pretty comprehensive experience to the extent that two and a half months can give you,” Raun said.

During that summer, Raun helped cover the city beat and reported on many happenings around the city.  He worked hard to prove he was good at being a journalist.

He expected to take another internship after his senior year, but it turned out he didn’t need one.

“I got a call from the Tribune, and they invited me out to work for them after I graduated,” Raun said.

Raun was hired as the city beat reporter after the former city reporter was promoted.

Raun spent the next four years on the city beat before being promoted to an editing job in January of 1998.  “With how we are here, editor is the logical job progression after reporter,” he said.

Now in his 15th year as the regional and farm news editor, Raun still does some of his own writing and reporting.  “It wasn’t like I got out of writing,” he said.  “I wouldn’t have wanted to do that.”

Raun said everyone at the Tribune does a fair share of reporting, and that can help keep people sharp.

The Web, he said, has complicated journalism.  “We have to reorder our thinking with the website, Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

The 24-hour news cycle is challenging.  The Tribune has not hired any extra journalists to work on Internet activities, so the burden is shared by everyone .  “We have to reorder priorities in a sustainable way,” Raun said.

The Tribune has its own website, with a free version of the day’s top news, and a PDF version people can subscribe to of that day’s newspaper put onto the Web as it appears in print.

Raun said the best advice he can give to new reporters or editors is that they must have an “innate curiosity about the world around them.”  He said anyone can always learn how to write better or use technology better, but it’s impossible to teach someone to be curious.

“The thing that gets new journalists in trouble is when they say things don’t interest them,” Raun said.

Accuracy and fairness are traditional values that are still essential for journalists, Raun said. Technology cannot change that.

“There’s a special kind of reward for being able to put something together as a story that can help benefit people and the community,” Raun said.

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