Small-town newspaper editors wear more than an editor’s hat
By Megan Conway
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Being permanently in one daily routine isn’t a worry for small-town editors.
In a phone interview, Bruce Baker, city editor of Nebraska’s McCook Daily Gazette talked about working for a small-town newspaper. The job, he said, never boring, and he learns something new everyday.
Baker answered questions about his start in the journalism and how technology is changing the way he does his job.
Q: How did you get started in the journalism field and what made you interested in it?
A: Journalism started very early for me in high school years, but then I ended up leaving it and going to college for computer programming. I spent a lot of years in the business field and when I moved back here to be closer to family, I just baby-stepped into it. I started writing part-time for the Gazette and then moved into a full-time position and it just continued to grow from there. It seems like every year I take something new on.
Q: What other newspapers have you worked for before settling at the Gazette?
A: I have worked for the Craig Daily Press in Craig, Colo. and King County Newspapers in Seattle, Wash. There are about 15 community newspapers in a suburb of Seattle. Redman Reporter and Bellevue Reporter are ones that I specifically worked at.
Q: What is your favorite part about working for a small-town newspaper?
A: You wear a lot of different hats in a small-town community newspaper, but it adds so much change to it. There are so many different things that you can dabble in and you’re not stuck in some of the mundane roles that I think you can get in some of the larger newspapers. Not only am I an editor, I also write a weekly column that’s comical about my son that I get praise for, and then on the other hand, I write a column about our City Council that I get a ton of criticism for. It’s nice to have that balance and keep things interesting.
Q: What made you want to go further than being a writer and become an editor?
A: I take a lot of pride in everything I do and want to be the best in every area, so when becoming an editor was a possibility for me to gain more control over the final product, I jumped on it. To be a niche role player and just to write and be happy with it probably wasn’t in my make-up.
Q: Could you please walk me through a typical day for you?
A: Well, our publication is printed at noon everyday. A typical morning from 8 until press, we are scrambling with whatever that day’s stories are. Our afternoons we have a lot more time to chase, do interviews or research stuff. Depending on the day of the week, we have weekly sections on certain days of the week that we have to prepare for specially.
Q: You said one of your favorite aspects of being an editor was that you have more control over the end product. Is there any other specific things you enjoy about being an editor?
A: I think there is probably more enjoyment on the reporting side. It’s more challenging as an editor though. So in any line of work when you are talking about more challenges, you are talking about more work, but you are also talking more reward in the end.
Q: What would be your least favorite part about being an editor?
A: The least part about it is probably dealing with the public. The most rewarding thing we do is communicating and educating the public, and the most difficult thing we experience is the criticism we receive from the public; the very people we are striving to help out. That has caught me off guard in how difficult that is to explain.
Q: How has technology changed the way you do your job and the Gazette itself?
A: Well, you basically have to adapt. I don’t think the roles have changed as much as a lot of people would like to say. The same basic entity is informing the public and being a watch guard for the people and for the public. You are communicating a little differently, but it’s still the same job. I had to learn how to incorporate the online with my print stories, but I feel like it didn’t hurt my stories or job at all, only enriched them and provided people more ways to be able to reach them.
Q: Finally, what advice would you give young journalists who are looking to get into the print field or even editing?
A: On the reporting aspect, just the importance of public meetings and being able to report on that. Being able to summarize your story and getting the basic meat of it in a small simplified format that someone can read in a few minutes from just sitting and attending a meeting. As far as editing, it’s still really early on for me so I’d be scared to give anyone advice or tips other than have confidence in yourself and be a reporter with integrity and a hard work ethic.