Important part of editor’s job is listening to her readers
By Sarah Vogel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Working at a small newspaper comes with challenges as well as rewards. After her junior year in college as an education major, Mary Lou Rodgers decided that teaching was not for her. She switched to journalism because she knew that writing was one of her strengths. With a degree in journalism from Creighton University, she did not decide to be an editor. However, an opportunity arose, she tried it out and ended up finding a great fit.
Rodgers became editor of the Douglas County Post-Gazette in October of 1998 after she had held the assistant editor position at the paper for the previous 12 months. This newspaper covers the towns of Elkhorn, Bennington, Waterloo and Valley, as well as the school districts of Bennington, Douglas County West and Elkhorn and the Mount Michael High School. All are near the city of Omaha.
Planning and publishing a weekly newspaper, as well as sorting through daily emails, are some of Rogers’ day-to-day responsibilities. She also has to look for stories, assign stories, proofread and edit, process photos, write school board stories, plan for special sections and decide what goes on each page of the paper.
Though small, the newspaper’s readership has been growing. The main draw is that the families in the area “see pictures of their kids playing football that would never appear in the World-Herald, for instance, since that paper has so many schools to cover,” Rodgers said in an email interview. “We are able to build some trust with our readers.”
Rodgers said the more personal aspect of her job is “listening to people who call to tell you their story, which is not really a story we can do, but they just need an ear,” she said. “Or listening to a complaint and trying to handle it diplomatically and make a correction.” She said the best part of her job is “I work with some great people, and we all pull together to put out a quality publication.”
The newspaper has a print and an online version. The print version has been published for more than 80 years. It also has all the stories, whereas the online version is just a sampling, containing teasers of a few news and sports stories. The paper usually has 12-16 pages, though sometimes special sections are inserted for more news. The Douglas County Post-Gazette sends out sample papers occasionally, and once new residents find the paper, Rodgers said they usually subscribe.
Social media are beginning to come into play a little more, but because the paper has such a small staff, it’s difficult to monitor social media as much as is required. The Post-Gazette’s Facebook page is up-to-date and contains small blurbs on what will be in the paper.
“It’s interesting every day and different every week,” Rodgers said about her job. “I am never bored – sometimes a little overwhelmed – but never bored.”