Pastor loves being community newspaper editor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Curt Hineline puts a face to the expression “Everybody’s an Editor.” Hineline never received a journalism degree or intended to work at a newspaper. He became a local pastor in Oakland, Neb., in 1996.
During an interview at the Oakland Independent newspaper office, it became apparent that Hineline’s love for editing grew through opportunity and by chance. His journey toward his current position as managing editor of the Oakland Independent all started with a friendship.
Dewayne Gahan, the former owner and editor of the Oakland Independent, offered Hineline a part-time job in 2000.
“We were casual friends, and he asked if I would be interested in working in the dark room and editing photos on the computer. It was something I was already sitting at home doing just for fun. So I took the job.”
As time progressed, technological advances caused Hineline’s photo editing position to become very part-time.
Hineline wasn’t working for the money. “I didn’t need the money, and there sure wasn’t much there,” Hineline chuckled. “But I enjoyed doing it, so I just stayed on.”
Gahan developed cancer and, after much thought, sold the Oakland Independent to the Enterprise Publishing Company. The Oakland Independent was about to get a facelift, and Hineline would be at the heart of it.
“At the time, we had been doing literal cut-and-paste mockups of the pages. Enterprise wanted to move to a digital process using InDesign. I had a little technology background, and they asked if I would stay on to help make that transition.”
Hineline told Enterprise Publishing he wasn’t interested in keeping his position because of the few hours he worked. “They talked me into staying on.”
His part-time job grew exponentially as the newspaper transitioned to digital. “I was promoted to assistant editor pretty quickly because it became evident that I was doing more than what was originally anticipated.”
Eventually the Enterprise Publishing editor of the Oakland Independent resigned, and Hineline was asked if he was interested in the position.
“I struggled with being a fulltime pastor and taking on such a huge responsibility with the newspaper because I didn’t want to neglect my responsibilities as a pastor, which was my passion and first calling in life. As responsibilities progressed, I wrestled with whether or not I should do it.”
As assistant editor, Hineline became more involved with the community and learned to enjoy writing. The majority of his experience came from on-the-job training and by taking two editing courses at Northeast Community College.
“By the time I made the decision to become the editor, I felt just as strongly about it as I did to become a pastor. I really loved it.”
His passion and dedication to the Oakland Independent is a main driving force behind the paper’s success. Unlike many large newspapers, Hineline doesn’t fear the decline of readership of the Oakland Independent. Although the Oakland Independent is a weekly paper, articles are published throughout the week to the online Website and Facebook page. Hineline said the purpose of having all three is to lead readers from one to the other. Although the online paper receives 1,000 views weekly, the average stay is only a few seconds.
“People aren’t reading the online version like they would the newspaper. The majority of people who subscribe don’t use the online version. A huge portion of subscribers are parents. What helps sell the Oakland Independent is that people are able to save the paper. The hard copy means something to people,” Hineline said.
Hineline said he strives for accuracy and does his best to leave out personal bias. But at the end of the day, running a small town newspaper is nothing like big-city publications.
“As an editor, I’m involved in a lot of things on a small town basis. We are the cheerleader for the community and local schools. We are protective of the communities and should be. In many ways, there has to be bias. Small town newspapers are here to stay because there isn’t much competition. No one [on the larger scale] covers local news like us.”
Hineline sees a direct correlation between his dream job as a pastor and his almost accidental position as an editor. “In some respects, they’re related. As a pastor, you’re dealing with spiritual needs. The [small-town] newspapers are extremely important to the communities in supporting activities, telling their stories and supporting the businesses. It is another opportunity to help serve the community. I love what I do.”