By Matt Jensen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Editing involves learning new things every day and is a craft that takes continuous practice.
Just ask Zach Tegler, a sports copy editor at the Omaha World-Herald, who says he learns something new every day at his job.
Tegler graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2014 with a degree in journalism. While he was there, he won the William R. Reed Memorial award, an award for the best sports journalist in the Big Ten Conference. Tegler also earned a summer internship at The New York Times, one of the nation’s biggest newspapers.
After college, he had an internship at the Omaha World-Herald and was eventually hired on as a sports copy editor. He has now been working there for 2.5 years.
When asked about what the toughest or biggest things to know about editing, Tegler said there were three major things: headlines, fact-checking and timeliness. He learned to write headlines at The New York Times. Headlines are huge and they sell the story, Tegler said. Editors will constantly have to work at to get better.
“Really good headline writing, I think, is an art form that people don’t really recognize because they see it every day,” Tegler said. “To get a headline that is factual, that can capture a story and is interesting, it’s not an easy thing to do.”
A tip from Tegler is if you are a struggling with writing a headline it sometimes helps to just to get up, take a break and come back to it.
Fact-checking is another important skill. In today’s world, it seems that being first is often put above being accurate when it comes to reporting news, which is not right, Tegler said. This is a principle he strongly believes in.
“I’ve always thought that if you publish information that is incorrect, then what is the point of publishing it? If you publish information that is incorrect you’re really not necessary to be playing the role of an informer,” Tegler said “It’s not embarrassing; it’s irresponsible.”
Tegler says to help with fact-checking, it is important to know where to go to check the facts and which sources are trustworthy.
The last point he made was the importance of timeliness, especially when it comes to sports editing.
“The deadline is like a very holy thing,” he said. “Don’t miss the deadline.”
In sports editing, an editor may sometimes only get 15-20 minutes to look over a story before deadline because sporting events often occur in the evening, on a newspaper’s deadline. Being able to edit and look over stories quickly but accurately is critical.
“When you a get a story from a reporter at 11 o’clock at night you might have 5 or 10 minutes to do all that stuff, fact check it, fix any grammar issues, write a caption for a photo, write a headline, make sure it all makes sense, make sure it’s factual,” Tegler said. “That’s not a lot of time to do that.”
Tegler said if you’re running out of time it is better to write an accurate-boring-headline than an elaborate one and to always use spell check.
Repetition is the key improving as an editor. Just doing these things (headline writing, fact checking, timeliness) over and over again will help you become faster and better at editing stories, he said.
His last tip for anyone wanting to go into journalism is to immerse yourself in the job.
“Take what you’re doing seriously,” Tegler said, “and be interested in what you’re doing.”
By Mady Traun
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lindsay Augustyn is proof that a journalism degree can get you anywhere.
As outreach and communications coordinator for the Center for Science, Math and Computer Education (CSMCE) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Augustyn has no such thing as a typical day.
From reaching out to alumni to editing newsletters, she does it all. You could definitely say that communication on all sorts of platforms is her thing.
After hearing about the job from her mother, who also works for the UNL, Augustyn was hired at the center in 2009. Only two years later, her current title as outreach and communications coordinator was created for her.
Before joining the center, Augustyn worked as a copy editor at the Lincoln Journal Star and in event planning for Embassy Suites.
Augustyn has found a healthy balance between a copy editor’s lifestyle and a 9 to 5 profession. Working in higher education has made life with a family easier. With the university’s hours, she is able to spend more time with her children while still holding an editing job. Many newspaper editors work nights and weekends.
Augustyn’s job title may lead people to think she’s an expert at math and science. But most of her day-to-day tasks revolve around communicating with professors and students. She also works on event planning for such things as Math Day.
“I’m not actually doing math,” Augustyn said. “I’m making sure that everything is correct as far as the message goes.”
Although she is immersed in math and science, Augustyn keeps herself involved in journalism. She interviews professors and alumni for magazine-like annual reports and e-mail newsletters. She proofreads all of the center’s communications materials. And she is active in the American Copy Editors Society, a national organization of editors.
Augustyn has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in marketing, communication studies and advertising, both from UNL.
In college, Augustyn applied for two internships at once: one editing internship through the Dow Jones News Fund and the other through the Association for Women in Sports Media. She won both internships and ended up taking a semester off in the fall so she could have both experiences. Back then, she would not have imagined herself in the math and science world.
Her work at the center is evidence that being an editor is important in careers outside of a newsroom.
“Don’t be afraid to take a job at a place that is not grounded in journalism or writing because they will need someone who knows these skills,” Augustyn said. “If you can write you are an asset.”
Augustyn stressed the importance of editing.
“Everybody needs a copy editor,” she said. “Everybody needs someone who can write. Every business, it doesn’t matter where.”
Students who are pursuing editing can look to Augustyn as a role model. Entering the job market can be intimidating, but she makes it clear that editing opportunities exist outside of newsrooms.
Augustyn’s advice to journalism students: “I have found that being able to write, spell and edit yourself is more important than I can even describe.”
By Carter Donahue
University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Jacob Padilla is living his dream.
He’s loved sports ever since he was in his school.
Now as editor-in-chief of NebHSSports.com and a staff writer for Hail Varsity, Padilla’s career centers on sports.
“When I was in high school, I was a 4.0 student. I got mostly all As. But the problem was, I wasn’t really interested in anything. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved sports,” Padilla said in a telephone interview. “I decided I wanted to go into sports writing because I knew I loved sports so much and I have just kept doing it since. I still love it.”
Padilla offered simple advice for students thinking about their future: Do what you love for the rest of your life and your career won’t seem like work.
As for journalism, he said making connections is important and can open up opportunities. That is how he got his jobs.
At Creighton University,, Padilla started writing for his school newspaper, The Creightonian. He covered the Bluejays’ basketball team, which led to covering the Bluejays during the NCAA Men’s March Madness tournament.
While Padilla was covering Creighton’s first game, the founder of Nebraska’s Hail Varsity, Aaron Babcock, approached Padilla. At the time, Creighton star Doug McDermott was making national news by emerging as one of the best players in the country. Hail Varsity needed a feature story on the future National Player of the Year.
Since Padilla was covering the Jays, Babcock asked if he wanted to write the McDermott story. One feature story later, Padilla was on Hail Varsity’s radar as a college student. He still writes for Hail Varsity.
As he approached graduation, Padilla’s connections came in handy again. He had a friend who shared a similar interest in sports writing but had already lined up a job. Padilla’s friend referred him to his boss, the owner of NebHSSports.com. A conversation with the boss, Mike Sautter, led Padilla to a job at the website.
“It was really my first experience coming out of college, and it was such a different experience,” Padilla said. “As I went along working for NebHSSports.com I got a bigger role and that was good for my future.”
Padilla also did an internship on the sports copy desk at the Omaha World-Herald.
“I really liked working for the Omaha World-Herald,” Padilla said. “They usually just gave me the smaller sports to cover, like softball, but I enjoyed it.”
Even if it’s not the exact job you want, those internship opportunities can pay off with experience and connections later.
“I am very happy with where I’m at right now, but if I was to go somewhere else for the future, it would probably be for the Omaha World-Herald,” he said.
Juggling two jobs can be tough at times.
“Sometimes it’s difficult,” he said, “but I really genuinely love sports and I just love being out there.”
By Abby Stryker
University of Nebraska
When describing her role at the University of Nebraska Press, Alicia Christensen doesn’t talk about copy, misused phrases or horrible grammar.
Instead, she said: “I serve as part of the gatekeeper process.”
For Christensen, editing is “separating the wheat from the chaff.”
In a time where self-publishing is increasingly popular and any voice can be heard through blogs, videos or forums, are editors obsolete? Christensen would say no. “There’s a reason why people look at best-seller lists…. They want someone to curate that for them. They don’t want to wade through all the crap [to find the gems] because it’s time consuming.”
So if editors are gatekeepers, what qualifies Christensen? Years of study, hard work and experience. Christensen graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English. After spending time working with Prairie Schooner (the literary journal published by the English department and the University of Nebraska Press) in her final years at college, Christensen interned at the University of Nebraska Press where she found a permanent home. Starting as an acquisitions assistant in 2005, Christensen worked her way up through associate acquisitions editor and editor of Bison Books (University of Nebraska Press’s trade paperback line) before landing her current position as acquisitions editor.
Christensen didn’t always want to be in publishing.
“I had gone in originally thinking I wanted to be in academia,” she said, “but about halfway through my MA realized it wasn’t for me.”
Instead of dropping the master’s program, Christensen refocused and began working with Prairie Schooner. Because of that relationship, an opportunity for an internship at the University of Nebraska Press opened up. And in the last year of her master’s program, a full-time position opened up at the press.
“It was just sort of serendipity I suppose.”
Now that Christensen has been at the University of Nebraska Press for 10 years, she’s had a chance to explore other areas of interest. Expanding Frontiers is a new book series she’s working on that builds upon the journal Frontiers (a publication with an emphasis on an interdisciplinary study of diversity published by University of Nebraska Press). Expanding Frontiers aims to expand thinking on and study of gender and sexuality; feminism; and women’s studies. When asked about the rewarding aspects of her job, Christensen said, “being able to contribute to the conversation” and helping educate the public.
Internships have played a big role in Christensen’s success.
“Publishing, along with a lot of others, is an opaque industry, so it’s necessary to learn from those on the inside,” she said.
Internships are almost necessary to land a job in the editing and publishing world. Finding a mentor is also an invaluable asset. Christensen connected with such a person — Ladette Randolph — when she began working at the University of Nebraska Press. Christensen began working for Randolph as her assistant in the acquisitions department in 2005. She admired Randolph’s vision for her work at the press, the way she handled and worked with authors, and her demeanor.
Christensen said it wasn’t the obvious kind of mentoring where a mentor sits down one-on-one to talk about the mentee’s future; it was more developing a good relationship with someone who you admire in a career you’d like to have and observing.
Being an editor, takes a lot of learning and guidance. Christensen values her relationships in the industry highly and suggests students or new editors take advantage of the wisdom of those with more experience.
Her advice: Don’t give up. Try something new. Observe and build relationships with those in the career you see yourself in. And, never underestimate the importance of an internship.
By Jordan Patt
University of Nebraska Lincoln
Chris Dinan, current visuals editor of Hear Nebraska, is curious.
He is the type of person who likes branching out; he appreciates the unknown. Dinan loves the challenge of a conquering a new skill.
“I remember when I was 14 years old and I had my first job at the Arby’s drive-thru,” he said. “I took my first paycheck and bought a camcorder. My friends and I were always messing around with it, making silly horror films and stuff like that.”
Dinan has experienced his fair share of picking up random hobbies and gradually letting them collect dust in the corner of the closet. However, messing around with that camcorder when he was 14 turned out to be more than a hobby he’d eventually lose interest in. Dinan always felt a certain pull toward the photography world and eventually bought himself a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera.
Throughout college, Dinan continued to practice photography while studying philosophy at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
He enjoyed taking videos of his friends in local bands to expand his skill and his friends got some cheap publicity out of the deal. At the same time that Dinan was teaching himself the ropes of the videography world, Hear Nebraska was just beginning to lay its own roots.
Every couple of months, Dinan would send in a video of his friend’s band playing a show to Hear Nebraska. This eventually landed him the title of Hear Nebraska’s visuals editor, which he has had for almost a year now.
Dinan wakes up each morning not quite knowing what the day has in store for him. The music world is constantly evolving. He’s always on the look out for new album and single releases and who’s playing where. Dinan uses the news to find out what is happening in the music world around him.
Hear Nebraska has two video interns, whom he assists with editing, photography and videography. If Dinan has recently gone to a show, he can be found editing photos or video footage. He strives to put out at least one music video per week.
One of the biggest challenges for Dinan is how fast paced the job can be. Dinan likes to push boundaries and step outside of his own comfort zone.
“One of my goals is to shoot all different genres of music,” he said. “I don’t want to just get caught up in the indie rock scene or the bluegrass scene. I want Hear Nebraska to encompass all music genres.”
Dinan wants Hear Nebraska to be a place where music lovers of all kinds can come to get the latest scoop. He wants Hear Nebraska to portray the big picture instead of just a subset.
Besides working as Hear Nebraska’s visuals editor, Dinan works for Omaha Video Solutions as a filmmaker.
Before landing his jobs for Hear Nebraska and Omaha Video Solutions, he worked for some smaller video companies. This allowed him to make valuable connections with actors and cameramen, and gave him outlets to rent equipment.
Dinan also said that working for smaller video companies allowed him to explore the profession and expand his skills.
As Hear Nebraska grows, Dinan plans to continue to push the business and himself. He wants to get to the point where Hear Nebraska is putting out three music videos per week.
Dinan strives to make his videos out of the ordinary. He wants to show people something they have never seen before.
Dinan’s career shows how to succeed in a media industry in a non-traditional way. He didn’t study photojournalism or film in school, but he had a passion for it. He dedicated himself and his time to the profession and has made a name for himself.
Experience, accuracy and broad-based education: Advice for aspiring journalists looking to get ahead
COURTESY PHOTO OMAHA WORLD-HERALD
It is hard for a young person to decide, or even take a guess at, what they want to be when they grow up. However, some people are destined to a particular career and discover this very early on in their life.
Julie Koch, a Lincoln Journal Star sports copy editor, was well on her way to the profession of sports journalism since the sixth grade, when she began by collecting every Lincoln Journal Star sports section.
Koch would follow her dreams and land a job at the Journal Star as a copy editor, where she has now worked at for over 30 years.
As a copy editor Koch is responsible for selecting stories to run in the morning. She comes in to work around 4:00 p.m. and stays until the sports page is finished and she then sends it across the street to the Journal Star’s printing press.
Koch sits at her desk and sifts through the news wire on her computer to find stories that are best suited to go into the paper the next day. Koch is given a list events and stories that reporters are covering and bases her decisions of off local impact and of off national magnitude.
“We use a content management system for our stories,” Koch said during our interview. “It’s a great system.”
A content management system organizes many aspects of a papers stories to their online files of pages. At the Lincoln Journal Star, editors can view AP and local papers stories from around the United States on a server and papers such as the Journal Star, pick them up and run them.
Having access to many local newspapers around the nation is beneficial to getting news that is comprehensive.
“We aren’t stuck having to run with the AP,” Koch said. “Like in Boston, if it’s the Pats, they’re closer to New England than us, they usually have a better lead.”
Koch is also in-charge of making stories fit on the front page of the sports section. She still likes to use paper and pen to lay out what goes where, but eventually has to add it into a file online to send to the design section.
Koch said that the advances in digital journalism have greatly improved the efficiency of journalism when it comes to time it takes to set up a story and put it in a design.
“I used to have to look through our photos here to get them for a story,” Koch said. “Now they’re attached to the stories online.”
The improvement of how an editor is able select stories and edit designs, has been beneficial to the work Koch has put in. However, the faster things move, the faster she needs the reporters at the Journal Star to get their stories in.
“A deadline is a deadline,” Koch said. While this has been a motto for papers for some time, it is more important with the faster paced online presence of papers. Koch wants young reporters to understand that reporters need to get their stories done fast because “editors need the time to edit” so they aren’t forced to cut corners to meet a deadline.
Koch believes that the added pressure of getting a story in fast has changed the way she looks at editing. She said that the getting the news to the public by the deadline is becoming more important and has found herself saying, “screw it, I need to let it go,” more often when editing reporters’ stories.
The web has as allowed for mistakes to be corrected after they have been made. During the major print era, papers had to focus on harsh editing, because once it is out in public, it couldn’t be changed. However, editors can go into a paper’s website and send in a correction to avoid any comments from the grammar sticklers in the public.
The digital age has been a benefit to the journalism community and made life easier for editors, according to Koch. She has been a part of the transition from little technology, to the age of journalism that is done primarily online. Digital journalism is gaining a lot of traction in the public’s eyes and is damaging other news sources such as print.
There are many articles online that claim print is dead. However, Koch believe that print journalism has its place in the world, covering the things the national media ignores.
“Newspapers are not dying if you cover local,” Koch said.