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Online editor says community papers will survive

By Sophie Tatum
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Leeanna Ellis is the online editor and special sections coordinator for the Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise, a twice weekly, community newspaper. The paper was founded more than 140 years ago and is based in Blair, Neb.

Although the paper itself is a smaller publication, the Enterprise Publishing Co. publishes 12 weekly newspapers for markets in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Ellis works with all things online for both the paper and the company. She has worked in the news industry since she was 18 years old and shared her editing knowledge and personal experiences in a phone interview.

Q: How did you get into the editing business?

A: Actually in high school I started working for a newspaper when I was 18. I started out in sports. I was writing stories and I would also layout a page for the paper. So I actually started in high school, and then I knew that kind of what I wanted to do was journalism and so I decided to pursue that in college. I kept working at that paper and then I actually worked for a television station too during college, and I actually went there first when I got out of college. I was a producer for a news program. And I got back into newspapers about seven years ago just doing copy editing and layout and writing stories.”

Leeanna Ellis manages all things online for the Enterprise Publishing Company.

Leeanna Ellis is the online editor of the Washington County Pilot-Tribune & Enterprise. Ellis manages all things online for the Enterprise Publishing Company. Photo courtesy of Leeanna Ellis.

Q: What is your favorite part of editing and the whole editing process and what you do?

A: I’ve always had a love for design and just reading other people’s stories. I like trying to make sure everybody’s story is correct; I’m always looking for mistakes and making sure things sound correct and look good. So I guess my favorite part is the design part of it, and reading other people’s stories and editing stories as well.

Q: How do you think social media is affecting the industry and your paper in specific?

A: “Well we’ve kind have been on top of social media…. That’s part of my job, I’m making sure we get our stories out there on Facebook and on Twitter so people know we have stories. Our website has a paywall so we put our stories out there but in order for people to read them they have to subscribe to our paper or subscribe to our website… But to me, social media is a marketing tool for the newspapers. So that we can get out information out there so that people can know that they can turn to us for breaking news or for interesting stories that they want to find out about the community.”

Q: What role do you think community journalism plays?

A: You know, they, in my opinion, smaller papers are the ones that are going to survive because the community depends on the newspaper. In most cases, when you look at it, we’re only 20 minutes from Omaha but the World-Herald doesn’t cover Blair like we would because we’re right here in the community. So, in a lot of ways the community depends on us because we’re the only source they’re going to have to get that news.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring journalists and editors?

A: I would say from first hand, know how to do multiple thing because you never know what kind of situation you’re going to get into. Nowadays, newsrooms are getting smaller and more people are expected to do more things than what they were initially told to. Maybe you just wanted to be a reporter. Well, now you need to know how to be a photographer and a videographer and in some cases and editor. So, it’s important to know how to do multiple things.”

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