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Web mastermind takes over the internet one headline at a time

By Camille Paddock
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Most kids at the age of 9 want to be teachers or astronauts or firefighters, but Travis Siebrass dreamt of becoming a journalist.

His parents always got the Omaha World-Herald delivered to their house, which is what he credits to his peculiar childhood dream.

Travis Siebrass

“I loved the paper and I loved Nebraska football,” Siebrass said in a phone interview. “I always wanted to be a journalist because of that.”

While it may seem like Siebrass had it all figured out, he had a hard time finding his perfect fit in the world of journalism.

He wore many hats over the span of his professional career including news, sports, print and web before finally settling down in his position as the digital editor for the Daily Herald in the Chicagoland area.

Siebrass was born and raised in Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in news editorial journalism.

A professor recommended Siebrass apply for an internship with the Daily Herald during his senior year in college. After graduating from UNL, Siebrass landed the position and only planned on staying in Chicago for the year-long internship.

But that is not how life turned out for Siebrass. When his year was up, the company offered him a full-time position, an offer he couldn’t pass up. He’s been working at the Daily Herald since.

In a typical day, Siebrass comes in around 5:30 a.m. and reads the note left by the overnight staff who have the morning articles ready. He looks over the homepage and the headlines and decides if anything needs to be changed.

“My favorite part is changing a headline and immediately watching [views] spike,” Siebrass said.

In fact, that is the big difference between print and web. On the print side, there is no way to see if your work attracted an audience, he said.

Online articles are constantly being tracked in terms of viewer engagement. This data is analyzed and changes can be made to articles and headlines in order to boost viewership. Since there is no way to track how many people actually read an article in print, web has become increasingly popular.

“I’m glad I made the move,” Siebrass said. “That’s where the future is.”

Siebrass’ advice for students is simple: He encourages all journalism students to take risks and reach out for internships.

“There is no substitute for experience,” Siebrass said. “Being out there in the real world is the best teacher of all.”