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Matczak learns humility, trust as executive editor

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment

By Alli Davis
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Melissa Matczak, executive editor of the Omaha World-Herald. (Photo courtesy of omaha.com.)

If Melissa Matczak had wanted a job that was predictable, unchanging and comfortably uneventful, she never would have applied at the Omaha World-Herald.

Her background in journalism in high school and college, however, showed her that journalism was exactly the opposite. She wanted a part in it.

Matczak began reporting for the World-Herald 20 years ago, but in January of 2017, she became the first female executive editor the paper had seen.

She said in a phone interview that one of the hardest parts about the promotion was feeling like she might not be able to hold her own as executive editor, but she has learned to be comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.”

“Wherever you’re working, you’re going to screw up,” Matczak said. “But you have to correct your mistake and own up to it.”

A chunk of her day is devoted to familiarizing herself with the stories that are being written that week. She meets with her team to discuss how to make the stories better.

“It’s a lot of just looking ahead to what’s coming and reading our content in all areas of the paper to make sure it’s interesting [and] fair,” Matczak said.

Other days, however, she finds herself solving problems that aren’t at all related to journalism. She knows her employees look to her as a source of support in all situations, so she must be ready to help in whatever way she can.

“You have a framework, but I walk in every morning knowing that that framework could just fall apart,” Matczak said. “You have to be very flexible and go with the flow, and maybe you’ll get some things done on your checklist. Maybe.”

She said it really comes down to the support you have in the newsroom. She meets with staff members every day to figure out the best ways to run stories and fix problems.

Having the input of a diverse group of voices is important, but that doesn’t mean the World-Herald is immune to slip-ups.

Sometimes Matczak and her editors feel they have thought of every possible reaction to a story, but as soon as they run it they’ll get a call from a reader, sometimes an angry one, asking, “What about this?”

Matczak said sometimes the only good response to that question is the honest one: “I just wasn’t thinking.”

She said part of it is trusting your gut, and part of it is experience.

“The longer you’ve been here, and the more scenarios you’ve been through, the easier it is to make those judgment calls,” she said.

She knows she would not be able to make those calls alone; a lot of her positive experience at the World-Herald is because of the support and competence of her employees.

“I have good deputies under me whom I trust,” Matczak said. “When work needs to get done, and it needs to get done fast, I have the people to deploy to do it. It makes my job that much easier.”

It’s that culture of a close community that keeps so many people at the World-Herald, Matczak said.

“You have to pull together as a team every day to work at a very fast speed to put stories online and in the paper,” Matczak said. “It creates a great sense of teamwork. It’s like a family to me.”

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Graphic designer Kristen Hoffman designs her own dream job

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment

By Taylor Christian
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Kristen Hoffman, founder of The Hoffman Collection. Photo credit to Kimberly Dovi Photography

Even as a child, Kristen Hoffman was passionate about art.

“I was always drawing and doodling since a young age,” she said.  “It’s just something that came naturally to me and something I thought was fun and engaging.”

Later, she turned her passion into a full-time job as art director at Omaha magazine. Now she works for herself as a freelance designer.

In college, she initially decided to try something more practical studying pre-med before she realized that wasn’t what she wanted.

“I began to think, why am I betraying my passion, something I love and know I’m good at, and that’s art,” Hoffman said.

Eventually she switched majors to design and communication, a decision she considered one of her best. After college, she landed her first job at a package design company in Texas. She really loved the design aspect of the “real world.”

A few years later, she moved back to Nebraska and in 2014, she stumbled across Omaha magazine and began working there as the art director.

“I loved my job at the Omaha magazine,” she said.  “It allowed me to be creative and do all the things I enjoyed. As the art director, my job was basically to design and layout the magazine, I really enjoyed the freedom and the atmosphere I worked in.”

But with a newly started family, Hoffman decided it was time to find a job that allowed her a little more freedom and family time.  She wanted a job that would allow her to be creative and challenge her while building her resume.

She landed a job as a graphic designer at Gallup.

“Gallup was a different work atmosphere than I was accustomed to at Omaha magazine,” she said. “It was a little more straightforward, I still used my skills and creativity but I was working on more ‘assigned’ projects.”

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Kristen Hoffman, former graphic designer at Gallup  (Photo courtesy of Kristen Hoffman.)

At Gallup, her job as the graphic designer was to create event posters and media projects. She learned new skills that helped when she decided to start her own business.

After becoming pregnant with her second child, she decided it was time to take a step back in her career.

At home she picked up her lost hobby of doodling and began making sketches of her family and daughter. As a stay-at-home mom, she started selling drawings of families and began taking custom orders, which eventually turned into a new business.

“What started out as just me entertaining myself turned into something a lot of people want and are interested in,” she said. “I never thought I would be the one to start my own business but they are really taking off.”

All of her jobs have given her new skills that led to where she is now.

“I really loved my previous jobs; however, I never would have imagined actually designing my own dream job.”

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One of Hoffman’s pieces from The Hoffman Collection.

 

In advertising, Charlie Stephan says: ‘What matters is what works’

By Quinlan Gaillard
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Charlie Stephan, associate creative director at Swanson-Russell

Charlie Stephan is an associate creative director at Swanson-Russell. He started his post-graduate life at Swanson-Russell and has grown into multiple roles in the past 10 years. However, he didn’t always know he wanted to work in advertising. 

Stephan began college at Texas Christian University as a news journalism major, but quickly realized he could not see himself chasing down interviews and working the crazy hours it required. His next major was secondary education with a focus in social studies, but the classes didn’t feel worth the major. Third time’s the charm though, and Stephan graduated with a degree in advertising. He still was able to write and be creative but also have the low-key lifestyle he had wanted. 

In college, Stephan was involved in a fraternity and with new student enrollment. Although TCU’s advertising program didn’t push students to connect with outside resources at the time, Stephan had an internship with a public relations agency in Dallas for a short period. He also worked a few smaller jobs like sports promotion for a local basketball team among other things.

After graduation, Stephan moved back home to Nebraska and found a short term position at Swanson-Russell. He worked as an associate writer-producer under Brian Boesche, now the chief creative officer and one of the owners of Swanson-Russell, who was moving into a management role at the time and need someone to write his day- to-day copy. That’s what Stephan did at the start of his 6-month contract. Throughout those months, Stephan began acquiring more roles. He took over for a writer who left and earned a few accounts. Now he’s an associate creative director who oversees writers and artists. In June, he’ll mark 10 years at Swanson-Russell.

Stephan’s average day involves working with designers, art directors and artists. “When we work on something here it’s not an assembly line,” Stephan said. “It’s not like I write the copy, hand off, the designer designs it, hand off, the client reads it. Everything has a ton of back and forth.”

Everyone’s work affects everyone else, so employees often work together. “So, a lot of it is those quick, 5-minute conversations.” Stephan said. He does spend time sitting at his desk in his office writing but prefers to see how the copy will fit into what he’s working on during the writing process instead of spending his time analyzing every word choice.

For instance, Stephan said, “I’ll write a radio script and read it out loud in here to myself.” That way, he can fix anything awkward sounding through trial and error.

Another part of Stephan’s role at Swanson-Russell is as a broadcast producer. So he not only writes the scripts for broadcast but also finds the right talent, film crews, production companies, and the like to shoot or record what he needs. Overall he spends around 30 percent of his time with production and the other 70 percent writing.

An unexpected part of Stephan’s job is explaining everything he does to his clients. “Everything we do is really subjective. I can’t tell Runza that ‘aw snack’ is a line that tests really well.” Stephan said, “It’s like, here’s our goal. Here’s why we think it accomplishes that goal.”

For Stephan, editing is more stylistic than substantive. He has to meet time or space requirements to meet a designer’s and client’s needs. Also, he has to make sure he’s using that space or time to focus in on what the client wants to be talking about. Editing means balancing the fun fluff with the message that needs delivering. This could be in a television script, a tweet, or anything in between.

“Most of the editing comes in just to get in everything that the client wants to talk about, but trying to do it in a way that design and layout doesn’t hurt,” Stephan said.

Something Stephan really enjoys about his role as an associate creative director is having to think through why he is doing what he’s doing.

“That’s a big part of the appeal for me is I’m not just what people think. That the creative part of an ad agency just sits around coming up with fun stuff all day,” Stephan said “It’s kind of true; we do some of that stuff. But a lot of it is a company comes to an ad agency because they have a problem.”

The first part of solving a client’s problem is defining it and the second part is figuring out how to fix it, which is where Stephan’s role comes in. Writing something cool or funny loses its luster, but getting to explain to a client why and how he’s going to solve their problem is what he likes most.

One of the harder parts of working in the creative part of an advertising agency is people being attached to their work. Clients can veto an idea with the sole reason of not liking it. Or creatives may not like something even though it’s right for the client.

“You have to divorce yourself from what you think is cool or interesting or funny. What matters is what works. What matters is what your target audience is going to respond to.” Stephan said. This can also happen with a client. If they have a product launch they’ve been working on for years, but it’s not going to solve their problem, it doesn’t matter how much work has gone into it. What matters is the best way to reach their goal or solve their problem.

Stephan’s advice for students is to get into the building you want to work in. Do whatever it takes – whether it’s an internship or delivering mail.

When he was in college, he worked summers at his dad’s law office. This gave Stephan information about how the office and industry work — valuable information if Stephan wanted to be a lawyer. Even if your job doesn’t involve what you want to do, it’s useful. “It’s not like you’re going to be practicing your craft, but you need to learn how the place works in order to be able to figure out how to contribute to it,” Stephan said.

It will also give you an idea of the type of people in the area you’re interested in. You can find out you wouldn’t get along with people in that area before you spend years working toward getting a job in that field.

“You’ve got to get in there and it’s like learning a foreign language,” he said. “You can go to Spanish class or you can go to Spain. If you go to Spain for a semester you’ll learn the language and if you go to Spanish class for four years you’ll kind of have an idea.”

Jann Nyffeler combines passion for editing with her love of music

Director of Mojo Sustainability at Bop Shop Records

Jann Nyffeler, director of mojo sustainability at Bop Shop Records. (Photo courtesy of Jazz 90.1.)

By Nate Smith
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jann Nyffeler has tried it all.

She has been a part of many news teams, hosts a jazz radio show and is a knowledgeable record enthusiast at  Rochester, New York’s Bop Shop Records.

She gained her work ethic from her first job detasseling corn in the summer in her native Nebraska, Nyffeler said in a telephone interview.

“You are up early and out in the sun all day. It’s hot and it’s hard work, but detasseling taught me how to work hard and push myself,” Nyffeler said. “Those are important traits to have in any job, especially in the editing world.”

Growing up, Nyffeler had no idea that she wanted to be an editor. She was a part of her high school news publication where she gained editing skills and reporting experience.  She didn’t think she was as strong of a reporter as her peers, but she discovered she had a knack for editing and working with others to get the best material out of them.

After graduating from The University of Nebraska- Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and news- editorial, Nyffeler started working for The Sentinel, a paper based in Raleigh, North Carolina. There, she learned what it was like to work with different people in a team environment to meet deadlines.

Nyffeler stressed how important it is to try different roles when the opportunity arises.

“I remember when someone couldn’t be at work one day, and The Sentinel needed someone to cover a classical music performance,” she said. “I didn’t have any experience doing that sort of thing, didn’t know what I was doing, but I said that I would give it a shot and ended up really liking it. Don’t be afraid to try new things.”

After eight years at The Sentinel, Nyffeler became part of several other news teams. She was a page designer and copy editing team leader for The Wichita Eagle in Kansas, worked as a copy editor at The Dallas Morning News and became copy desk chief for the Democrat and Chronicle, a paper in Rochester.

She’s also used her editing skills outside of traditional print media. She was editor and communications coordinator for George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, and was the page production team leader at the Syracuse Post-Standard in central New York.

Now she combines her editing skills with her passion for people and a love for music. She manages all of the social media platforms for Bop Shop Records, an independently owned record store in Rochester that specializes in blues, jazz and American roots music.

“I am a little afraid of Twitter,” she said. “It is a really powerful tool, but you only get 140 characters to work with so your message has to be effective. I am experimenting with different ways to promote the record store.
When we get a new collection in or we are having a sale, I come up with different ideas to get the word out.”

Nyffeler’s musical interest extends to her morning jazz radio show on WGMC Jazz 90.1

“I play the coolest jazz I can find, along with some off-the-beaten-path, wacky stuff keep you guessin’.”

Nyffeler urges anyone who has an interest in getting involved in music journalism to apply to work at their school or local paper to gain experience, go to live shows and befriend musicians.

“Just write, go to shows and just try and write,” she said. “Start a blog. It’s a great way to practice. You will have something to show someone that you can write. Become friends with musicians. You can learn a lot about music and will become a better writer listening to what musicians have to say.”

For Hurrdat account manager, job is a hectic juggling act

Emily Madden, lead account manager of Hurrdat. Photo credit: Hurrdat.com

Emily Madden, lead account manager of Hurrdat.
(Photo courtesy of Hurrdat.com)

By Michael Schweitzer
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

To say that Emily Madden’s typical day at Hurrdat is anything less than busy would be a lie.

As lead account manager for Hurrdat, a social media agency, she wears many hats. Hurrdat is a younger agency in an ever-changing industry, and it is the lead account manager’s job to know what’s happening in the agency at all times.

Keeping up with the day-to-day at any agency is a full-time task for anyone, but Madden is somehow able to find a way to fit more into a 24-hour day.  In her job, she must ensure that her team of account managers stays on task and accomplishes all of its goals. That requires staying in constant contact with clients and communicating any changes or ideas to her team and the agency.

As the face of Hurrdat for many of clients, Madden must be able to adapt depending on who she is speaking with and be knowledgeable about rules and regulations for various industries. As a graduate of the University of Nebraska- Lincoln with a double major in marketing and economics, she already possessed the skill set needed for the job, but she found that her real world and internship experiences helped prepare her.

She learned about the need for good editing skills as innovation intern at Mediaspace Solutions, which acts as a “middle man” between newspapers and any client or brand. Her role was to help facilitate advertising buys and contribute to the understanding of digital strategy in meetings. She learned that editing was the key to representing herself to clients and coworkers.

After graduation in 2012, she moved to Baltimore, Maryland, for a short time. While there she helped her cousin, a professional athlete, evaluate franchising opportunities. While doing this she realized that much of what she was doing was based on numbers, and she had very little opportunity to actually do any storytelling. Soon after she found out about Hurrdat’s opening and has since been an integral part of the agency.

Madden’s advice to students who aspire to jobs like hers is to understand the need and importance of good editing skills. As a student and a professional, it is necessary to create your own personal brand, she said, and having good editing skills will help you communicate your skills.

Her degree and training were in the business college, so she didn’t know much about journalistic style of writing including AP Style. But she’s learned on the job because it’s essential for communicating a client’s message.

Turn school projects into portfolio pieces, she said, as a way to gain experience. One example she gave was to reach out to non-profits and do team projects. By doing this, you can also create future contacts for recommendations.

Madden also offered these tips for students:

  1. Pursue opportunities to exercise your editing skills.
  2. Reach out to friends or coworkers and exercise writing skills.
  3. Make note of good writing content and styles.
  4. Develop your own voice and tone.
  5. Use any opportunity to practice.

 

From intern to editor-at-large, local businesswoman thrives

By Lizzie Mensinger
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Although Heather Lundine has a doctorate degree in English, her love of editing actually began with food and travel.

As an intern at the University of Nebraska Press, she edited a variety of material. But food and travel pieces were always interesting to her. “Those are still my favorite,” Lundine said, “just because they are fun and exciting.”

Now as a developmental editor at Randolph Lundine, a manuscript consulting firm, and an acquiring editor at the West Virginia University Press, she edits a wide range of literature from scholarly articles to fiction.

Heather Lundine

Heather Lundine, co-owner and developing editor of Randolph Lundine manuscript consulting. (Photo courtesy Shannon Claire)

Lundine has lived in Kansas City, Lake Tahoe and Phoenix, but she moved to Nebraska to work on her doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lundine’s internship at the University of Nebraska Press eventually grew into a full-time position.

Now as an acquiring editor for West Virginia University Press, Lundine has the freedom to create the types of books and literary works that she wants to edit. She currently is working on creating a list of books for the university to publish. She reads articles and reaches out to authors to see if they are interested in writing a book or creating a textbook based on their articles.

 If authors agree to write for the West Virginia, Lundine works with them to create their work.  She also edits and reworks each piece before it is sent to press.

  “It’s about making a deal, designing the types of books that you think are best for the company (West Virginia Universityto publish and what is going to be the most interesting, thinking how does one thing fit with another,” she said. “Does a scholarly article translate well into a full book?”

Lundine also plays an active editing role at Randolph Lundine, a manuscript consulting company that she co-owns with Ladette Randolph, editor-in-chief of the journal, Ploughshares, and author of several books. At Randolph Lundine, Lundine works as a developmental editor, a role she describes as “a second set of eyes before the manuscript is sent to a publisher.”

A typical day for Lundine involves going over manuscripts and sifting through masses of emails and articles with the hopes of finding a new project to propose. Lundine said that the best part of her job is when “you are invested in a book or a scholarly work from conception to publishing. And it gets even better if the book goes on to win awards. It definitely gives me a great sense of pride.”

The people who work with Lundine feel the same pride about working with her. Judy Muller, author of “Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns,” had this to say about working with Lundine: “After Heather read my first draft, she was encouraging and blunt at the same time… The book that eventually went out to readers was vastly improved because of her editing skills. The excellent reviews that followed, from the Wall Street Journal to National Public Radio, would not have been possible without Heather Lundine’s expert guidance.”

As a manuscript consultant, Lundine says the most common error she finds while editing is that people tend to embellish their words too much. She calls it “purple prose.”

“People often get lost in their own narrative,” she said. “You find that people forget what they learned about writing when they were young, you forget narrative arc, and paragraph structure gets sloppy.” 

As for her best advice to writers, she said: “Use clear, good words. Use the narrative arc, and make sure you know your audience.”

Lundine also posts writing prompts on her website regularly to help her authors grow their skills and to attract new writers.

As developing and acquiring editor, Lundine’s career has been fruitful.  Her editing skills have taken her from an internship to owning her own business. Lundine has a lot on her

“The literary community is wonderful, fast-paced and being a part of it, you are constantly learning,” she said. “Knowing that you may have made a book a little better gives you a great sense of joy and pride.”

Small town editor leaves big newspaper to start his own

December 13, 2014 Leave a comment
George Lauby is the owner, editor , and publisher of "The North Platte Bulletin"

George Lauby is the owner, editor and publisher of The North Platte Bulletin.

By Ryan Nielson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

George Lauby decided to quit farming in the late ’90s to start working for his local newspaper.

Lauby got his start because he felt that a story by his local paper in Lexington, Nebraska, wasn’t properly covered.

“Like most people, I love to criticize a newspaper’s work,” Lauby said.

After he talked to employees at the paper about the story, he ultimately was offered a job there. He sold his farm and eventually became the editor for that paper.

Later he started to work at the North Platte Telegraph. While working there, the paper was sold and Lauby decided to leave. That was when he created the The North Platte Bulletin in 2011.

Lauby believes locally owned newspapers are needed in small-town Nebraska. He created The North Platte Bulletin so there could be a local voice in North Platte instead of a corporate one.

The North Platte Bulletin has both a website and print editions.  Online has important information but not as many features as the print edition. Because the online edition is free, if everything was on the website no one would buy the print edition. That’s why some features are reserved for print.

He employs some reporters, but he still has to do a lot of work himself.

With a limited staff, Lauby handles all of the editing and business side of the paper. “I take out the trash. I work in the business office. I design ads sometimes, and I write, I edit, I take photographs,” Lauby said.

Lauby said success requires juggling many things. His advice: Stay calm and focused. Concentrate on the future instead of past mistakes.