By Alli Lorensen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
In 2015, with the help of a small team of 11 people, GuideLive, the entertainment section of The Dallas Morning News, revamped its website to reach out to a younger digital audience.
The 131-year-old newspaper veered from its traditional ways.
Copy editor Christine Ricciardi and her colleagues proved that their entertainment website could be profitable.
In 2012, Ricciardi initially started working for GuideLive, the entertainment section of The Dallas Morning News, as a contractor.
In 2014, she joined The Dallas Morning News to work full time, and was assigned to the GuideLive staff again in early 2015.
For the past three years, Ricciardi has worked on a section that is all about beer. She said this provides her with opportunities to make tasteful puns.
“I read about this brewery in Arlington called Legal Draft and they are called that because the president is formerly a lawyer and all of their beers are puns and I got to talk about their ‘Beeranda Rights,’” Ricciardi said in a phone interview.
On a daily basis she creates content, assigns stories to freelancers, edits those stories and sends them to the print team. Ricciardi starts the day by checking to see if there is any breaking news. If not, she will move to checking out stories, “If they’re from a freelancer I like to do them early in the day, that way I can send back feedback and say, ‘hey you need to check this out,’” Ricciardi said.
When editing stories, Ricciardi keeps everything in a Microsoft Word document. She uses the highlight tool and adds her notes in bold either in the middle of a sentence or after a paragraph.
Ricciardi agrees that the AP Stylebook is very helpful. However, when writing about craft beer industries, she said, it is absolutely essential to do online research.
“I rely heavily on my copy editing team. Not only because they’re fabulous at their jobs, but they have much more experience than I do,” Ricciardi said. “I graduated college in 2010 and I work with a lot of people who have been in this industry for as long as I’ve been alive.”
Ricciardi graduated from Southern Methodist University and received a degree in both journalism and Spanish. She initially started with a minor in Spanish, but she enjoyed classes so much that she didn’t want to stop.
She spent a semester abroad in Spain and understanding a second language has proven to be beneficial.
“We also own and produce a Spanish language paper and so when they do entertainment stuff, a lot of times people come to me,” Ricciardi said.
Before getting hired at The Dallas Morning News, Ricciardi ran her own music blog called dfDubReport.
“I had a bunch of my friends who I had recruited to write and cover shows and review albums,” she said. “Everything went through me before it got posted on the website.” This provided her with an editing background and additional practice.
“I’m more of the person that wants to bring happy news and a little bit of light in the sort of depressing news cycle,” Ricciardi said.
Ricciardi’s passions for food, drink and music make her successful in her career. She describes herself as a social butterfly who likes to have countless recommendations to provide friends and family with.
Entertainment news has been becoming increasingly important.
“I’ve been that person that people look at the entertainment section and have been like, ‘oh it’s just the tabloid section of our website,’ and gaining that respect was a challenge,” Ricciardi said. “Ultimately entertainment is the fact that everybody needs and wants to do happy things and good things in their lives and they want to know about the new, up-and-coming cool stuff.”
By Josh Nedved
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
To succeed in journalism, take all of the opportunities you’re offered.
That’s how Tim Weber gained valuable experience before landing a job as a copy editor at the Lincoln Journal Star.
After graduating from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, Weber worked at a small paper in Missouri for a year. He then went on to work at four newspapers in Iowa, including Iowa City Press-Citizen and Iowa City Gazette.
“I got my feet wet,” Weber said, referring to all of the training and practice he went through as a sports editor at smaller papers. Besides editing, he also had some experience taking photos and writing stories.
Weber’s first two years at the Journal Star were spent as a news copy editor before he was assigned to sports.
“I’ve always loved sports,” Weber said. “I played them as a kid growing up. I love reading about sports.”
His passion for sports and his writing talents come together to make for an enjoyable job as a sports copy editor.
When asked what a typical workday is like, Weber said there really isn’t one.
“It’s different every day,” he said. “It depends on what I am assigned.”
Each day, three copy editors work on the sports section. One is the layout person, who is in charge for the night. That person comes in earlier than the others and helps plan the section for the day. The other two copy editors assist the layout person, editing stories and making sure stats are correct.
“We are there to help out as needed,” Weber said. The roles are switched around equally among the three.
When talking about challenges as an editor in today’s world, Weber said, “Editing in journalism gets harder as time goes on. There’s a large work load and pressure to get things done on time.”
Social media is making a huge impact. While social media can be a good tool for delivering and sharing news stories, a great deal of content on such sites happens to be fake.
He is especially worried about the next four years. “It’s a scary thought knowing the president-elect is not a fan of objective journalists. He’s suppressing freedom of press.”
As an editor, Weber takes real news seriously. He’s never met anyone in journalism who hasn’t bent over backwards to do the right thing. It’s crucial, he said, to always be objective and fair.
Writers need help. Editors are there to assist with correcting small issues like grammar. Their job isn’t to change stories; it’s to help writers create better ones.
“Adapt yourself to the person you are editing and make them better,” Weber said. “Present the best product possible for readers.”
“The best advice I can give for future editors is to take your ego out of it, do a good job and be proud of it,” Weber said. “It’s important to be a team player. You’re not the star. Make everyone be the best they can be.
“It’s not your story, but the best possible story.”
By: Jessica Larkins
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
From a young age, Brett Baker knew that he would grow up to become a broadcaster.
“When I was 8, every Sunday I would watch the “NFL Today” and after that “60 Minutes” would come on,” he said. “I wanted to do a combo of that.”
Little did Baker know that his career would take him far beyond the traditional newsroom.
Baker, the executive producer of the Nebraska News and Information Network and producer of KOLN-TV’s 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows, has been a broadcaster for more than 25 years. His career has taken him to over 17 countries and he has taken on many roles as both a producer and a reporter. In 2016, he won a Heartland Regional Emmy Award for the evening newscast in smaller markets.
Through his many jobs, one thing remained constant: the importance of editing.
Baker grew up in Malcolm, Nebraska, and graduated from Malcolm High School.
He briefly attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he majored in journalism, but he quickly realized that college wasn’t for him.
“I was a bad student,” he said. “I was wasting my time and my parent’s money. I needed to get my life on track.”
Baker decided to join the military. His stepfather was in the Air Force, inspiring Baker to join that branch of the military because “they take care of you.”
After Baker joined the Air Force, he attended broadcasting school in the military and was a reporter for the Air Force for nine years. While he was in the Air Force, he was stationed at many bases; everywhere from Korea to England.
During his time in the military, Baker gained great broadcasting experience.
“One of the great things about the Air Force was they spent money on equipment and training,” he said.
Because of this, transitioning from the military newsroom to a traditional newsroom wasn’t difficult for Baker. He said that the experience he gained in the military led to the opportunity to become a producer.
Baker was the senior sports producer at KSAT-12 in San Antonio, Texas, for more than 10 years after he left the military. Editing became a crucial part of his job as a producer.
When editing is poor in a story, it is one of the first things that viewers notice, Baker said. Good editing makes viewers focus on the content of the story rather than all of the mistakes. Baker emphasized that audio editing is very important for students to learn because it puts a viewer “that much closer to a story.”
“It took me a long time to become a good editor,” he said. “You only get better doing it time and time again.”
Editing is an important part of everyone’s job at the station, not just producers and directors. People working at a smaller station like 10/11 have many more jobs to do compared to bigger stations. That leaves less time for self-editing, but Baker said that it is still important. Reporters need to be able to self-edit.
Baker had some advice for aspiring broadcasters and journalists. He said students should learn the fundamentals of editing and audio weaving and become excellent storytellers.
Good editing skills “can be one of those things that sets you apart,” Baker said. “It’s undersold in schools.”
By Elissa Kroeger
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sometimes airing your grievances can land you a job.
“I complained to the World-Herald about their lack of bowling coverage,” newspaper editor Ron Petak said.
Although Petak had never planned to become a journalist, in the early 1980s, the Omaha World-Herald sports editor asked him to write a feature story on bowling.
“Next thing you knew I had a regular bowling column,” Petak said. “Next thing you knew I was working in the sports department part time.”
Now, Petak is the executive editor of the Bellevue Leader and three other Omaha suburban newspapers owned by BH Media.
Petak attended Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, studying political science and English.
He joined the Bellevue Leader in 1985 as a staff writer covering the county and Bellevue schools. Then he switched to sports for several years. After that, Petak got his first editing position as a city editor of sorts.
In the late 1990s when the Omaha World-Herald purchased the Bellevue Leader, Petak was appointed executive editor.
“You continue doing what you’re hopefully doing as a writer, and that’s being fair and accurate,” Petak said. “Being the executive editor is making sure that we stay on track with that.”
All of these papers focus on their respective communities with little crossover.
“I have a deep appreciation for community journalism,” Petak said. “Our focus is our communities.”
This means you won’t see a Nebraska football article in the Bellevue Leader unless there is a direct tie to the community, like one of the former high school players transitioning to the team.
Serving the community is what each paper strives to do. One way to do this is by having calendars that let people know what is happening in their communities. Another is by being feature driven and “telling people’s stories.”
With more than 30 years of experience, Petak is full of wisdom for students.
“You can’t be in this business even if you’re editing, if you’re not willing to ask questions,” Petak said. “As an editor you need to do the same thing with your writers.”
It’s important that writers be able to interact with the people they interview.
“You can’t be afraid to engage people,” Petak said. “You can’t be afraid to ask tough questions when those times come.”
Writing the story, he said, is just as important as gathering information.
“You need to understand style — everything from the grammatical to the AP Stylebook, which makes it a lot easier for editors when writers know that information,” Petak said.
It’s important to ensure the simple things like spelling names right and having dates correct are crucial.
“Be accurate and be fair,” Pekak said. “After that, there is not much more readers can ask for.”
In the ever-changing world of journalism, he said it is vital that writers have passion.
“I don’t think you can just go through the motions,” Petak said. “If you’re looking to make a career out of this you need to have a passion. You need to have a sense, especially in community journalism, of contributing to the community.”
By: Eric Jesse
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Tom Elkins started his editing career working on training films for Godfather’s Pizza.
Now, he edits films like “Inferno” for director Ron Howard.
In between, he worked on commercials and lesser-known films like “The Haunting in Connecticut,” and “Annabelle.”
Elkins worked his way up, doing a little bit of everything, to follow his dream.
Ever since he was young, Elkins enjoyed making videos with his friends and editing them.
“Making movies was my passion,” Elkins said.
Elkins moved from Minnesota to Spokane, Washington, where he went to a community college. He got a job for Godfather’s Pizza as the assistant manager. He then was hired as a video editor for Godfather’s training videos and had to move to Nebraska.
“I enjoyed making those because I was allowed to put my own creative spin on them, whether they were funny or scary,” Elkins said.
After doing that for a couple years, he started editing and making Godfather’s Pizza commercials. He enjoyed it, but he wanted something more out of his career.
When he married his wife, Susie, he told her about his dream. They packed up their stuff and moved to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, he started at the bottom. Since he didn’t have a big movie under his belt, none of the directors wanted to hire him. He worked as a production assistant and started building up his experience.
“If you want to make it in the production industry then you need to work all the assistant jobs like getting coffee and answering phones,” he said. “Those jobs will help you meet a lot of great people that could help you in the future.”
He soon got in contact with Mike Hill, who is from Omaha. He was Ron Howard’s video editor for several years. Hill retired last year from film editing and Elkins took over his role for Howard’s movies. The most recent Howard movie he edited was “Inferno” (trailer) with Tom Hanks.
Elkins’ editing job is the same everyday, but the footage he edits is different. He looks at all the footage that was shot the day before and starts putting the puzzle together and creating a movie.
“The editors are basically the guardians of the movie because they need to watch over all the shots and make sure that it all goes together cohesively,” Elkins said.
If he happens to catch a mistake with a scene, then he will call the director and let him know. Since the director can’t see the footage it is Elkins’s job to notice any mistakes.
“My advice for students would be to watch every movie you can and get inspired by different genres and directors,” Elkins said.
He encourages any student who wants to get into film editing to practice on every program there is, whether it is iMovie, Premier, Avid, etc.
The first time he helped with a feature film was when the editor he worked for was far behind and asked Elkins to help. He then got to use all of his knowledge of editing and help make a movie.
“Never be afraid to start from the bottom,” he said, “and always ask questions if you aren’t sure.”
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 Bailey Ernst
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Like many others, John Greilick didn’t always see his future as an editor. It was something that just kind of happened to him.
After spending 13 years as a photographer for The Detroit News, Greilick stepped up as a photography director to prevent the job from going to someone from outside the department, or worse, outside the paper.
“I like being part of the big picture,” Greilick said. “When I was just a photographer I would get my assignment and do my assignments, but I was kind of in a vacuum.”
Greilick’s love of photography started at Pine River High School in northern Michigan where he was the editor of his school newspaper. His high school journalism career also extended to writing stories for his hometown paper, the Cadillac News.
From there, Greilick attended Ohio University where he studied journalism and wanted to be a news writer. He went on to intern at the Flint Journal, Kalamazoo Gazette, Cincinnati Enquirer, and lastly The Columbus Dispatch.
Before ending up at The Detroit News, Greilick spent time working in Yuma, Arizona, for The Yuma Sun and in New Jersey for the Bridgewater Courier News. After a little over six years, Greilick returned to Michigan as a photographer for The Detroit News.
A new job title comes with new responsibilities. Greilick said some of his biggest challenges since becoming an editor have included working with new technologies and a veteran staff.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Greilick said.
One of the biggest challenges facing newspapers across the country is how newspaper print circulation has fallen. At The Detroit News, print circulation has dipped substantially since the paper no longer provides home delivery seven days a week. With print circulation falling, Greilick says that it is time to focus on the 90 percent of people who consume news online.
Greilick’s biggest advice for someone who is interested in a job in photo journalism or even photo editing: Versatility is important. It is important to be immersed in all the new technologies taking over the news world. Having both skills in video and photo and saying yes to every assignment can you get you far and having a good attitude goes a long way.