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Former publisher found his interest in newspapers at an early age

Zean Carney is the former publisher of the Wahoo Newspaper, Waverly News, Ashland Gazette and David City Banner Press.

Zean Carney is the former publisher of the Wahoo Newspaper, The Waverly News, The Ashland Gazette and David City Banner-Press.

Kaylee Dump
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

By the age of 13, Zean Carney handed in the reins to his newspaper route and began helping in the print shop.

He quickly learned the ins and outs of the pressroom at the Loveland, Colo., Reporter Herald, where his mother worked as a reporter.

When the pressman went on vacation for six days, 14-year-old Carney ran the press.

Carney, a 1965 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University, knew from a young age that he wanted to be in the newspaper industry. He was the editor of The Wesleyan, NWU’s college paper, as a sophomore. Carney took advantage of the journalism classes offered at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln because NWU only offered two. He was also a reporter at the Daily Nebraskan throughout his career at NWU.

Carney became the news editor for The Seward County Independent as a college junior. He continued classes at NWU part time and graduated with a business degree and a minor in political science. 

“Who said you have to have a journalism degree?” Carney said when asked about his business degree. “You have to understand the business.”

Carney and his wife, Marilyn, entered  the business side of journalism by starting the Waverly News. Just before retiring in 2004, the couple owned The Waverly News, The Ashland Gazette, Wahoo Newspaper and David City Banner-Press.

His years in the business and his many positions in journalism give him multiple perspectives on reporting, editing and newspaper management.

Carney said it is important for reporters to have a basic understanding of writing.

“If a person can’t spell and doesn’t know grammar, forget it,” he said. “Students have to be able to spell and know how to use words correctly.”

The difference between a bad reporter and a good reporter, he said, is editing.

“If [a reporter] doesn’t have that editing or style skill, you create a monster for someone who reads it.”

He said most students he hired right out of college had a good grasp on editing.

“I just expected them to have the skills as they came to work,” Carney said.

College journalists need to understand how to use current technology.

“These students need to have a fairly good technology background to handle new journalism,” he said, “as well as the old -fashioned skills.”

He recommended reporters get their feet wet in smaller markets, such as a small daily or a weekly publication.

“You will get to do a little bit of everything,” Carney said. “It gives you time to get your craft mastered before jumping into the biggest paper in the state.”

Students should not be afraid to let others check their work, especially someone who understands — names are important, he said.

Carney suggested two words of advice for future journalists: “Be ambitious.”

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