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Money editor enjoys the challenges of the Internet

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Deb Shanahan

By Michael Bishop
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Like most editors, Deb Shanahan didn’t always see editing as the path that she would take.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism graduate, she has worked as a reporter covering gambling, real estate and education during her 30-year career.

Now the Money editor at the Omaha World-Herald, her regular work day is 9 to 6, barring breaking news.  Her day generally starts with reading emails, press releases and online headlines, she said in a phone interview. Next, she works with other editors and a team of reporters planning future stories and editing them. As the Money editor,  her section covers some of the state’s biggest corporations such as Berkshire Hathaway and First National Bank.

Although she said she loves many aspects of her job, Shanahan said she’s most proud of her role as an editor in a series called “Omaha in Black and White.”  The series focused on the fact that Omaha has the highest percentage of black children in poverty in the nation. The project ran in six installments over two years.

While in college she had an internship with the World-Herald, where she also landed her first post-graduation job.  She worked there for a short time before moving to the Arizona Republic, where she worked for nine years before returning to the World-Herald. When an editing position opened, she applied because she liked the idea of working with designers and others on a section.

Not surprisingly, she said, the biggest change in the editing profession during the past 10 years has been the rise of the Internet. Editors and reporters must react quickly to stories and are always on the lookout for breaking news. The World-Herald is an active user of Twitter and other social media forms. Both the paper and the Money section have their own Twitter feeds and  Shanahan has her own personal account.

When asked what she sees for the future of the newspaper industry, Shanahan acknowledges that it’s hard to predict.  “I would be very rich if I knew where the newspaper would be in 20 years,” she said. But she suspects breaking news will continue to be emphasized online. Traditional print newspapers, she thinks, may become more like feature magazines.

One thing she’s certain of: Students must adapt to new formats. They should, she said, “take classes about technology as this will give them an edge in the future.” Knowledge of such things as Web design and  HTML has become more important.

Despite technological changes, Shanahan said, traditional skills remain essential.

“Old-fashioned values will always be the key to good journalist.”

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