Omaha-born editor finds home at community newspaper
By Taylor Lynch
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Community newspapers are sometimes overlooked during a journalist’s job hunt, but Joe Foreman took a chance by applying to one and has not left in 28 years.
His love for his job and the unpredictability day-to-day has kept him there.
Foreman began his journalism career in junior high working for the school newspaper. He continued his pursuits through high school and went to the University of Nebraska Omaha to obtain a degree in journalism with a minor in social studies.
After graduating in 1986, Foreman worked for the Kearney Hub in Kearney, Nebraska, as a sports reporter. But he and his now wife knew they wanted to end up around Omaha and he began searching for jobs in the area.
He came across an opening at the Opinion-Tribune in Glenwood, Iowa, a town of 5,272 people. He applied to be the associate editor in 1988 and became the editor in 1992.
When comparing his work now to his time at the Kearney Hub, Foreman describes the multitude of tasks a community newspaper has compared to working for a daily newspaper.
“At a paper this size, you have to be willing to take on multiple tasks,” Foreman says.
When he worked at The Hub, he was expected to report and occasionally page edit. At the Opinion-Tribune, Foreman writes stories, take photographs and edits copy. Sometimes people in the community write articles that need editing to get published. Editing stories written by people who have no experience in journalism can be daunting, but it is a must with such a small staff.
At times he may also have to do menial jobs around the office such as distributing papers to local vendors and stuffing inserts into the papers.
From his experience, Foreman believes that being a good editor requires a variety of knowledge, especially at community papers.
“You don’t have to be an expert on anything, but you have to know a little bit about a lot of things,” Foreman says.
If you work in a community paper, there is no specializing on a subject, you need to be ready to report and edit any topic.
Foreman also shared a few concerns about young journalists — one of which involves technology. Even though technology has been beneficial to getting breaking news to the public, Foreman is concerned that it has hindered communication. The biggest problem, he says, is a lack of face-to-face conversations. He finds that many people coming into journalism rely so much on technology to communicate that conversations in-person are hard to come by.
“Get out in the community and talk to people face-to-face,” he says. “Make good contacts and get to know who your sources are.”
Finally, Foreman offered advice to anyone who wants to become an editor.
“Be a stickler for grammar and spelling,” he says.
Being particular about grammar now will help you succeed as an editor. Edit everything as you go, such as social media posts and school papers. It is important to edit everything you read because it will help you build editing skills and make it second nature.
Starting work in a town with over 32,000 people and moving to a town with 5,272 people is quite a change. But Foreman has made the most of his opportunities.
He loves where he is and has proven so by how long he has stayed. No day is the same in a community newspaper and he enjoys the flexibility and variety.
He is passionate about what he does, and he is willing to help upcoming journalists and editors gain experience so that they can be passionate about what they do as well.