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Digital director finds her passion in unexpected journalism niche

Megan Stubenhofer-Barrett

Megan Stubenhofer-Barrett is the regional digital director for the Lincoln Journal Star. (Photo courtesy of Megan Stubenhofer-Barrett)

By Kelsey Connelly
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

When Megan Stubenhofer-Barrett graduated from college, her current job did not even exist.

She works as the regional digital director at the Lincoln Journal Star, where she oversees content in the world of online journalism that was once a mystery to many.

Stubenhofer-Barrett graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in journalism and began her career at a small marketing company in Kansas City, Kansas.

“I wasn’t really using my journalism degree there,” she said. “It was sort of an ‘Oh I need a job right away’ and I took it.”

Stubenhofer-Barrett then went to work as a designer at the Kansas City Star until she made the move to Lincoln, Nebraska, to work at the Lincoln Journal Star.  Since then, she has held many different positions, including copy editor, designer, special sections editor and editor of the Journal Star’s L Magazine.

Eventually, she had a chance to use her editing skills online at the Lincoln Journal Star.

“It was a terrifying leap at the time because it was still somewhat new and there weren’t many people dedicated to online,” Stubenhofer-Barrett said.

As online editor, she began working with content on a platform that was not a priority for many publications at the time.

“When I first started here we put stories online, and that’s basically all we did. We didn’t really think about where or how we put them up,” she said. “Facebook wasn’t really a thing.”

Stubenhofer-Barrett’s position as regional digital director goes beyond just supervising print content being published online; she works with both advertising and public relations as well. She is also in charge of digital content for five other publications in the region, including the The Columbus Telegram and the Fremont Tribune.

On a normal day, she might work with an online editor, help a designer, create a photo gallery for a story, or track trends on the Journal Star’s website.

“Typical is sort of untypical around here,” Stubenhofer-Barrett said. “One thing is true of all journalism: you do the same thing, but it’s entirely different every day.”

Tracking analytics has become a major part of her daily job. She uses various programs to track what people are reading and to see how they are coming to each publication’s website. She uses these numbers to strategize ways to attract new readers.

“I never really saw myself doing this, but I really like it,” she said. “I love the ability to see success in numbers and then finding a way to duplicate it.”

Watching online traffic grow on stories she helped with is one of her favorite parts of her job. The rush of strategizing and then seeing results, she said, is something that can only be experienced with online content.

“In print you write your story and put it out there and you’re done and moving on to the next one. You assume people read it, but you don’t know,” Stubenhofer-Barrett said. “When you post online you get this instant feedback.”

Some of the most rewarding aspects of her job come from journalism platforms she never imagined she’d be working with when she graduated from college.

Her advice for students is to get as much real world experience as possible, whether it is an internship or working at a school newspaper. She said that what you learn in college helps in your career, but nothing prepares you for the real world better than getting first-hand experience with journalism and advertising.

She also stressed the importance of editing skills, explaining that readers will notice even the tiniest of errors.

“Editing goes beyond just copy editing,” she said. “It’s making the story better, it’s making a marketing pitch more enticing to the reader, it’s making an ad copy that really connects what a writer has done and makes it even better.”

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