Home > finals > After studying social sciences, Stellmon finds career in editing

After studying social sciences, Stellmon finds career in editing

By Sam Crisler
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Andrew Stellmon says much of his job as managing editor at Hear Nebraska forces him to learn as he goes.

In college, Andrew Stellmon studied history and sociology with no intentions of becoming a journalist. And yet, today he’s the managing editor of Hear Nebraska, a local nonprofit that highlights the state’s music and arts scenes.

After working a sales job for about three years following his graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2011, Stellmon contributed a few articles to HN’s website in early 2014.

He received an internship with HN that fall and was promoted to staff writer in April 2015. That position evolved into his position as managing editor.

While Stellmon lacked  journalism experience when he began at HN, he said his background in sociology and history provided research and written communication skills imperative to writing journalistically.

Many of his friends were involved in journalism, and he always had interests in music and writing, so the combination made HN a natural step forward from his sales job.

“It was something I cared much more about than what I was doing,” Stellmon said.

Still, Stellmon said he’s had to gather knowledge about editing during his time at HN.

“This is like my journalism education,” he said. “Basically, learning on the job.”

And he said he’s learned a lot so far as managing editor. He said he’s grown as a headline writer, in honing stories for search engine optimization, and as a writer in general. His focus is editing, which he says he does constantly.

“I’m editing my own writing,” Stellmon said. “I’m editing our staff, our editorial interns’ writing. I’m editing contributors’ writing and I’m editing photos.”

On top of that, he oversees the general appearance of the HN website and everything that the editorial staff covers.

“Managing Editor” sounds strictly like an editing position, but Stellmon said he wears a lot of different hats everyday. He publishes HN’s daily news column, which involves reaching out to bands and artists through reporting.

Working as a salesman pushed him to get to know his customers so that he wasn’t just selling a product. He was creating a relationship. And he said this ability to start relationships has carried over to reporting.

“Having those relationships in a sales format really helped when I started doing this,” Stellmon said. “So, how to ask the questions was already a thing. It was just adjusting them for a different format.”

Aside from reporting, Stellmon said he spends a significant amount of time editing video and audio, especially for the weekly Hear Nebraska FM radio show and podcast he hosts. He said media editing is another area in which he is consistently tasked with assignments that require him to learn as he goes. Sometimes he still has to have help from others.

“Trying to learn some things that I don’t know how to do requires me to lean on people that do know how to do the stuff that I can’t,” he said.

But Stellmon said he welcomes these struggles because his best days are the days he gets to collaborate with other people. Every semester, a new group of student interns arrive at HN, and he enjoys getting to know them as they come.

“Just meeting a new crop of aspiring journalists every semester is really great,” he said.

And of course, a job in music journalism brings opportunities to discover local music and to attend concerts.

“Live music certainly helps,” Stellmon said. “Going to concerts is part of my job, and it’s still silly.”

Despite the perks, Stellmon isn’t complacent. He still thinks there is plenty of room to improve as an editor. He sometimes becomes frantic as deadlines approach, he said, and he wants to progress to a point where he can remain calm in those situations.

As the managing editor, he makes countless decisions on whether to review an album, interview an artist or write a feature on a certain subject. He said those decisions can be difficult, but it’s just another learning experience.

“I’m getting better at it all the time by virtue of messing it up a lot,” Stellmon said. “But I think that’s a constant battle.”

Although he’s still learning, he’s got advice for editors who are just getting started. He recommends they read frequently to discern why and how a particular section of a story is included in a specific part of the story’s structure.

He also suggests beginning editors write constantly, too. That way, they can get a feel for what kind of writing they prefer and how they want to edit stories. Finally, he said he thinks it’s critical that editors develop empathetic relationships with their reporters so the reporters don’t feel too harshly criticized.

“That’s good advice for young writers, too, is to put aside your feelings,” Stellmon said. “Because the first few times you get edited really harshly, it’s gonna sting. But it’s almost never personal. And if it’s personal, then your editor’s kind of got an issue.”

 

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