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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.”

Daily Herald editor reflects on life on the copy desk

By Elyse McFeggan
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sean Stangland Photo

Sean Stangland is a senior copy editor for the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago paper. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Herald.)

Growing up, Sean Stangland would read the Daily Herald  in suburban Chicago to stay up to date on the news of the world around him.  The newspaper was part of who he is.

Stangland, who grew up in Wheeling, Illinois, a small northwestern suburb of Chicago, studied journalism at Eastern Illinois University. Stangland wrote for the student-run paper, The Daily Eastern News,  all four years he attended college. He wrote movie reviews and got promoted to be the movie section editor for two years. Eastern Illinois University is a rather small school so resources were limited, and Stangland gained experience doing many different jobs in the newsroom.

Stangland graduated from college in 2001 and was set to begin an internship working for Walt Disney World. He was supposed to leave for the internship on September 12, 2001, but with the terrorist attacks the day before, he decided he should stay and work in news.

His college adviser told him about an internship at the Daily Herald, the third largest paper in Illinois. Stangland knew he wanted to work there. He took the internship on the copy desk and was hired for a full-time position right after the internship.

Now, he’s  a senior copy editor. He never does the same thing from day to day. But his primary job is to design the front page.

Every day at 2:45 p.m. he attends a meeting with editors who handle news from different suburbs. The Daily Herald is a paper that represents all of the suburbs of Chicago, so there are different stories based on which suburbs are affected. At the meeting,  the editors discuss what stories should be on the front page of the paper. The meetings can last anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. Stangland, in addition to designing the front page, must read stories, write headlines, design pages including the weather page, writes teasers, and occasionally work as a  sports editor.

The most common editing error he corrects is lottery numbers. Writers often get the numbers incorrect, which can lead to very upset readers.

But his favorite part about being a senior copy editor for the Daily Herald is handling big news stories. He likes the challenge of making hard news visually appealing.

He also enjoys working with his best friends. Working long hours on news means the staff  have all become very close friends.

In his free time, Stangland writes a weekly entertainment column for the Daily Herald. This is atypical of a senior editor, but he is driven to write the column by his passion for movies and television shows. He aspires to be a film critic someday. The paper’s current film critic is retiring, and Stangland hopes to be considered for that position.

His advice for aspiring editors: “Don’t be afraid to say you’re willing to help,” he said in a phone interview.  “It doesn’t mean you’ll get paid more, but if you’re willing to throw your hat in many rings it will benefit your career. The more things you can do the more valuable you are.”

 

 

 

 

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The Daily Herald’s Jeff Knox talks about the life as a photo editor

April 29, 2012 1 comment

By: Dena Lorenson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jeff Knox, senior director of photography at The Daily Herald

Jeff Knox is a busy man. As the senior director of photography at The Daily Herald in Chicago, he oversees a staff of 20 photojournalists and photo editors.

In a phone interview, he talked about a typical day, the highs and lows of being an editor and tough decisions that have to be made.

His day usually consists of two meetings to go over the news of the day, the centerpiece stories for the next day and the content that will be published online throughout the day.

After the morning meeting, he talks to the photographers about their assignments. “We are always looking at multimedia possibilities, whether it’s a gallery or video,” Knox said.

Knox has a degree in communications from Illinois State University, where he majored in journalism and minored in photography. He started taking photos in high school and always wanted to work for a newspaper.

After college, Knox worked at a few small newspapers as a sports photographer. In 1990, Knox was hired at The Daily Herald as an editor and photographer. He has been the director of photography since 2007.

He also is the secretary of the Associated Press Photo Managers and he is a member of the Illinois Press Photographers Association and the National Photographers Association.

Knox has been recognized by these organizations several times for his photographic work.

“I shoot a little bit and when I do it, I really enjoy it,” he said. “I miss shooting, but I also like editing.”

Knox likes the planning aspect of editing the most. He makes sure the staff has what it needs to be successful and come back with a great video or pictures.

And he likes to see what the photographers come back with. “I like it when they come back and they’re happy and successful; my bosses are happy,” Knox said. “They could come back and tell the story in pictures or video or other types of multimedia that really serves our viewers and readers.”

One of the biggest challenges of editing is managing limited resources. “We are stretched thinner and thinner these days and we are doing more and more,” Knox said. “There’s a lot of not just print, it’s not just online anymore, there’s a lot of alternative registries that all involves our staff producing a lot of things.”

Changes in the industry have led to smaller staffs and budgets for things like updating aging photo equipment.

Beyond dealing with tough budgets, Knox said, the hardest editing decision is deciding not to publish something. The Daily Herald has a pretty conservative audience and  many factors go into what it publishes.

“We’ve had to shelve pictures before just because the subject matter wasn’t right or it could be perceived as inflammatory or stereotyping a certain group of people,” Knox said.

Knox said the hardest assignment he had to shoot was a 5-year-old boy who fell from a tree and got caught on the branches trying to catch himself. Knox drove up to the scene with his camera loaded, but he couldn’t shoot the picture.

“I personally couldn’t do it and there was no way we would have run that picture,” Knox said.

Knox said diversity in skill set is key to becoming an editor. Photographers write and the reporters also shoot pictures. Becoming knowledgeable in multimedia, writing and photography will help.

When Knox started 20 years ago, he could not have predicted the changes he’s seen. Those changes include: the move to online publication, the use of digital photography instead of film, the ability to transfer photos to a computer right away and publish a picture online five minutes after you shot it.

Online is where future of journalism is going.  Knox doesn’t think  The Daily Herald will disappear, but the print product may at some point.

Categories: finals Tags: , ,

Correcting errors just one part of Daily Herald news editor’s day

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

By Adam Kroft
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Neil Holdway, Daily Herald news editor, American Copy Editors Society treasurer and recreational cyclist answered questions via email about his lifestyle as a professional editor.

Holdway is a news editor working at the Daily Herald in Chicago’s suburbs.  Holdway has worked as a copy editor, systems editor, assistant news editor and metro news editor on the news copy desk since joining the paper in 1992. He has been treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society, a professional organization dedicated to copy editing, since 2005.

Holdway, who lives in Schamburg, Ill.,  graduated from Northwestern University in 1992 with a degree in journalism and  English writing. Holdway enjoys cycling and bowling in his free time.

Q: How would you describe your job?

A: I’m the news editor at the Daily Herald, which means the lead editor at night. I also lead the Page 1 slot and the website slot. I also plan our front-page designs and enforce our policies.

Q: What do you do on a daily basis?

A: I accomplish various administrative chores: Slot page one stories, slot the opinion page, proofread business and wire pages, design front-page packages, paginate jump pages, edit the website and edit a regular feature for the morning.

Q: Did you always want to be an editor?

Photo of Neil Holdway.

Neil Holdway talks about being an editor.

A: No, I assumed starting in grade school I’d be a writer. I didn’t discover copy editing until college, and I fell in love with it thereafter.

Q: What made you interested in editing?

A: I enjoyed correcting errors. I liked putting the paper together, such as layout. I liked all the various little bits of writing the job requires, such as headlines and display type.

Q: How did you get where you are today?

A:  I was promoted to management very early in my career because of my technological skills. Pagination was the big new thing back then, because I was well-organized. I was promoted again after that, and I actually took a little step back to catch my breath a little and learn. I then stepped back into serious management 7 years ago, where I’ve stayed since. I’m a workaholic, and that has been a big reason why I am where I am.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: My favorite part is editing and front-page design.

Q: What is your least favorite part of your job?

A: Conflict, though of course that’s part of the drill, and just feeling beat at the end of the week.

Q: What is your favorite grammar rule?

A: Misplaced modifiers drive me crazy. Please, put “only” in the right place. For example, who and whom, bothers me especially that the clause in which the word resides determines which one to use.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see?

A: The misplaced “only.”

Q: Are there any ethical issues in editing today?

A: There are all kinds of ethical issues. Ethics is a big part of the job. There are whole seminars, Web pages, papers, books on these issues.

Q: Why the Daily Herald?

A: For me, it was a good-sized daily in the Chicago area, where I have lived all my life. It also has a tremendous underdog spirit to it, going up against the Tribune Company in Chicago and other papers. It offers a lot of opportunities to do many things.

Q:  How does it feel to be the treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society?

A: Well, I like the job because I like math and finance. I have done bookkeeping work on the side for years and learned a little about investing that way. Banking these days, however, can be a headache.

Q: If you could have any other job, what would it be?

A: I would love to be an investment manager, possibly a chief financial officer.

Q: Who is your favorite journalist to read? Why?

A: I don’t know if I would have a single favorite. I find the best journalistic reading is in Esquire magazine.

Q: Where do you feel journalism is headed?

A: We are starting to see where journalism is headed, on the Web. There is always the print question. Will journalism survive? I think it has many years left. TV was supposed to kill newspapers; it didn’t. But yes, we don’t have the telegram anymore. Overall, the demand for news remains, and that means opportunity for us.

Q: What is your advice for aspiring editors or journalists?

A: Be able to do a variety of things. Be flexible, master fundamentals, don’t be sloppy, be confident and humble and be open to the unfamiliar and most importantly like what you do.