Recent journalism graduate balances editing, reporting duties
By Samuel Egan
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Mike Brownlee grew up reading the newspaper, but he didn’t always plan on working for one.
“When I got out of high school, I wanted to be a teacher,” Brownlee said.
Once he enrolled at the University of Iowa, he realized that teaching was not for him. He got a job as a sportswriter for the student newspaper and switched his major to journalism. Brownlee earned his undergraduate degree in 2009. After that, he had an internship at the West Branch Times. In February 2010, he was hired as the assistant news editor and southwest Iowa reporter for the The Daily Nonpareil in his hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“I just love storytelling,” Brownlee said, “…going out there and finding someone with a story to tell.”
Brownlee works with other reporters at The Nonpareil. He edits their copy and asks questions when he has them.
“If there’s a voice that’s missing, or there’s a different way to word a lead…,” Brownlee said, “I like to work with the writing aspects.”
Brownlee’s day isn’t limited to working with reporters; he has his own reporting duties to worry about. On his way to the office every day, Brownlee stops at the police station to check arrest records so he can write police briefs later that day. As a reporter, he covers the area surrounding Council Bluffs, which includes Treynor, Underwood, Atlantic, Glenwood and other small towns.
“Every day is different, it depends on what I have going on,” Brownlee said.
“It keeps you on your toes.”
Editors should have a strong writing foundation if they want to be successful, Brownlee said. They should also be comfortable with technology.
“Know the Internet as well as you can,” he said, “and be a little versed in photography and video.”
Just knowing technology isn’t enough though, because you also need good storytelling, Brownlee said.
“Always have your eyes open. Always be on the lookout for a story,” he said.
When young journalists do find the story, Brownlee said they should be vigilant and thorough.
“You’re looking for the details,” he said, “find out as much as you can.”
Journalists should also make use of social media like Facebook and Twitter.
“I think social media is pretty awesome,” Brownlee said.
“Obviously there’s going to be some downfalls,” he said, remarking on social media’s potential for error, but he said that it’s still worth using it.
“I don’t have to call 50 people that I know, I can just put it on Twitter,” Brownlee said.
For journalism students going out into the world, Brownlee said he always keeps a few words in mind.
“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” he said.