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Raun celebrates 25 years in editing, witnesses changes in journalism

Raun, Andy 2-28-12

Andy Raun, news staff supervisor at the Hastings Tribune (Photo courtesy of Andy Raun)

By Noël Hrnchir
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

From no technology to Twitter, journalism has drastically changed over the past few decades.

Andy Raun has experienced it firsthand.

Raun has been an editor at the Hastings Tribune for 25 years and was recently made news staff supervisor. The Tribune covers all or parts of 13 counties in southern Nebraska and northern Kansas.

Raun’s passion for journalism began the summer after his sophomore year of high school at the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Conference. The conference was held in Lincoln and included talks from multiple people in journalism. Mike Strickland, a speaker and journalism professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stuck out to Raun.

“I remember Strickland, among others, saying that there were great changes ahead,” Raun said. “I think the suggestion was that, by about this time, things would have changed a lot. And they have.”

This change did not intimidate Raun but rather intrigued him. He decided to major in journalism at the UNL.

“I learned to do things the old-fashioned way, so my orientation is kind of more old school,” Raun said. “There are people who were there who were just a year or two younger than I am who were doing computerized layout.”

Raun worked for the Hastings Tribune as a summer intern after his junior year of college in 1992. The following summer, he was offered a full-time position as the city government reporter. He has been with the Tribune since.

He was promoted to the position of regional editor, which, at the Tribune is also the farm news editor. It was just in the past few months that Raun was promoted to the supervisor of the news staff.

During his 25 years with the Tribune, Raun said that job cuts have risen significantly and doing more with fewer people is a common theme. Only two people work as editors.

“What’s happened is the size of the staff has been reduced through attrition. There haven’t been layoffs. It’s just a matter of a lot of times when somebody will leave… they will always be looking to see if there’s some way that we can be more efficient,” Raun said.

And being a journalist means dealing with some uncertainty these days.

“There was a lot that was happening in the early ’90s that set us in the direction of advanced technology,” Raun said. “A lot of questions were being raised as to what the future was of this industry.”

The future of journalism is still unknown. Raun says that the key is making all of the relevant platforms of today part of the operation and figuring out how to make them better for the audience.

“The older folks value the newspaper product that they have always known,” Raun said. “At the same time, the younger generation does not necessarily need a printed paper for their experience. Our job is to meet the needs of both audiences.”

Because journalism is constantly changing, journalists are constantly learning. To be happy in your career as a journalist, Raun said that you must love to learn.

“Ask yourself how you feel about learning. If you see yourself as a lifelong learner, then you will enjoy your career.”

From history to journalism and the success that follows

December 10, 2017 Leave a comment

By Sarah Parkin
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dan Speirs pictured himself in a classroom, but found himself leading a newsroom instead.

In a phone interview, Speirs said he originally attended the University of Nebraska-Kearney, back when it was called Kearney State College, in pursuit of a history degree in 1977. Around the time he realized he didn’t want to teach history anymore, Speirs got a job at the local newspaper in Kearney, Nebraska, the Kearney Hub. This new job was supposed to be temporary, but it made Speirs realize he might have to reconsider his choice of career.

Dan Speirs

Dan Speirs works on the hood of a car after a tornado struck Kearney in 2008. (Photo courtesy of Dan Speirs)

“It was a slow progression,” Speirs said. “Once I started doing it, I knew it was right. I kind of walked into it slowly rather than waking up one morning and saying ‘Hey, I want to be a journalist.’”

Since he was already in the business, Speirs took advantage of the opportunity he had. He was hired full time as a wire editor at the Kearney Hub right before graduating from UNK.

After 40 years of experience, mostly at the Kearney Hub, Speirs has worked a variety of jobs. He has been a wire editor, reporter, copy editor, graphic artist, news editor and assistant managing editor. He and his wife, Julie, whom he met while working at the Kearney Hub, also both spent five years working in Columbus, Nebraska. Speirs served as a lifestyles reporter in Columbus, which he said has been his least favorite position to date.

Today, Julie is the publisher of the Kearney Hub and Speirs is the assistant managing editor. Typically, Speirs begins his day around 8 a.m. with a budget meeting. He said he enjoys the luxury of working at an evening paper. He reads and edits the stories of the reporters for the day and makes sure the stories make it to the copy desk.

Speirs does all this while managing a team of seven reporters, three regional correspondents, three sports reporters, three photographers, three copy editors and a news clerk.

“The hardest person working in the room is our news clerk,” he said. “She does marriages, divorces, engagements and just about anything that no one wants to do. We say ‘Let’s see if Tammy has time to do this.”

Working in one of the fastest-changing industries, Speirs has learned some valuable lessons over the course of his 40-year career, but he acknowledged the lessons he learned might not be as applicable today as they were when he learned them.

“Because the business is changing so much, a lot of my experience is not going to be relevant going forward,” Speirs said. “There are some traditional things, like commitments to facts, commitment to objectivity and being the best writer and storyteller you can be, that are going to be constants. We just have to be honest that print journalism is not going to be the dominant platform in the future and my experience is rooted in that, but those bedrock principles are always going to be in demand.”

Speirs encourages young journalists to focus on these principles. Although the journalism business has changed, Speirs still finds the new technology to be a fun part of the job.

His favorite job during his long career, though, was designing pages. He remembers his early days as a graphic artist when new technology was just coming out and he still enjoys these skills today.

“Taking black and white words and photos and trying to put them together into an attractive and readable package has always been the part I’ve enjoyed the most,” Speirs said. “There’s a kind of creativity in that and that’s the thing if I get a chance to do that, that’s an enjoyable day for me.”

Getting Inside the Mind of a Sports Editor

December 8, 2015 Leave a comment

By Dalton Hays, University of Lincoln-NebraskaEmmaSpan

On October 29, 2015, I conducted an over-the-phone Q&A with Emma Span. Emma Span, 33, was born in Montclair, New Jersey. She is the Senior Editor at Sports Illustrated and graduated from Yale University with a degree in film studies. Her hobbies are watching movies and covering basketball and baseball news. This is what she had to say:

Q: What is a typical day in the office like for you?

A: Before I even get out of bed to get ready for work I will get on my phone. I normally go straight to Twitter to see what the news is. After I get out of bed and have breakfast I will take that time to catch up on e-mails. I will also read articles from local newspapers while I am on my phone so that I am already interacting with news stories. My typical day once I get into work is very dependent on what day it is. My most chaotic days of the workweek are Monday, Friday and Sunday because of the workload and schedule we run. The magazine layout and content must be printed by Tuesday so we can send it out to the subscribers, which mean that everyday before Tuesday we are working very hard to meet deadline.

Q: What are some challenges you face throughout the day?

A: Deadline within print is the hardest thing I face on a week-to-week basis. Unlike online content, print content must be written, edited and out the door by a certain time no matter what. If you don’t meet deadline there will be blank pages.

Q: How did you end up as an editor?

A: I started looking for stable work when I was out of college and ended up at a friends company as a part-time editor. The company was called VICE Sports. I started off with little editing experience and worked my way to higher editing positions while I improved on my editing skills. One thing I always hear people saying is that good writers make for good editors, but that is something I disagree with. I believe both positions require a unique talent. I just happened to really enjoy writing and editing when I got my first job, so I stayed within that career field.

Q: Are you allowed to have favorite teams while being a sport editor/reporter or should you be unbiased?

A: It is hard to distance yourself from teams you rooted for while growing up, but you must remain unbiased. It is best to not root for teams, but instead root for outcomes/stories that are interesting.

Q: What is your favorite sports season?

A: Baseball, especially around spring training and summer.

Q: What is your favorite part about your job?

A: I get to read articles from great writers that I would already be reading even if I weren’t getting paid. I love to read so it is awesome that I get paid to read great articles from friends and give them feedback.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who is aspiring to make it into the journalistic part of the sports industry?

A: People who follow what they are passionate about write better articles. You should get as much practice and experience as possible and not be afraid to ask questions, especially to those who have been in the business for a long time. One thing I wish I had done is learn Spanish in college. Spanish will help you reach a much wider audience, especially with sports. I would also say that a good way to learn from mistakes is by trial and error. You don’t know what to improve upon if you don’t put yourself out there for people to see your work and critique it.

-END-

 

Social media helps link cowgirls to their dream magazine

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment

By Emily Taylor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Thea Dreisbach is a founder of Dirt Road Daughters magazine.

Thea Dreisbach is a founder of Dirt Road Daughters Magazine.

Dirt Road Daughters Magazine was created because of Twitter.

On the social networking site, Thea Driesbach met a group of like-minded woman, who shared a passion for a Western lifestyle, and the idea of a publication was hatched. Its website describes the publication this way: “It’s a new fashion and lifestyle publication for today’s daring generation of country girls currently enabling a sisterhood of cowgirl spirit & dirt road souls.”

Driesbach, who lives in New Mexico, manages to balance her full-time job as a CEO of a non-profit organization, ranching and editing the magazine. It’s published online and has a quarterly print edition.  Her passion for Western life has led to a successful magazine and new friendships across the country as well.

In an email interview, she answered questions about her life, career and hobbies.

Q. Where did you attend college and what was your major?

A. I attended the University of Idaho and have two bachelor’s of science (degrees), the first in 2001 in business with a major in accounting and the second in 2003 in communications with a major in journalism and mass communications.

Q. How did you become interested in journalism?

A. I have always loved magazines and have a bachelor’s degree in journalism so it seemed like a great idea to start a magazine as a side project with some like-minded women.

Q. What other jobs have you had?

A. I am currently the CEO of a nonprofit organization; prior to that I worked with the New Mexico State Fair.

Q. Who thought of the idea of creating this magazine and why?

A. A few cowgirls, I had only met on Twitter, and myself came up with the idea for DRDM. We wanted to create a publication that would foster a sisterhood of women like us – women living a rural/Western/agricultural life in a modern world.

Q. Could you give me a brief overview of your typical day in your job?

A. I work on DRDM on the evenings and weekends when I’m not at my “real” full-time job.

Q. How do you balance your other job along with this job?

A. It’s rough.  I try to set aside dedicated time for DRDM work on weekday evenings and on the weekend.  I try and make it a specific time so that it doesn’t eat too much into my personal life.  I also don’t do DRDM work while at my full-time job.  I may update Facebook or answer an email, but while I’m at my full-time job, my full focus needs to be there.

Q. What role does editing play in your job?

A. The editor team works together to read and edit the submissions our contributors provide.  We find the best strategy is for several people to read each submission to catch any typos and ensure the voice of the piece fits well with the publication as a whole.

Q. What is the most difficult part of editing for you?

A. Editing an article in a way that makes it clear and concise, but doesn’t alter the voice of the writer in any way is the most difficult part of editing in my experience.

Q. What is the worst part of your job?

A. It is high stress meeting the deadlines.

Q. What is one of your perks of having your job?

A. I love having the opportunity to work (with) talented women from across the country that I otherwise probably wouldn’t get to know.

Q. What is something that makes you look forward to this job?

A. I love getting the feedback from our readers when we complete a new issue and they love it as much as we do.

Q. Do you have a life outside of the office?

A. I do! I spend a lot of time working on the ranch, riding my horses and enjoying my time outside of the office.

 Q. What advice do you have for students who want to have a similar job?

A. For those interested in really working in the industry I would recommend not taking the road I have!  There has been a steep learning curve in starting a publication with no industry background.  It’s been a learning experience and a ton of fun, but we are all working on this as a side project and it’s not our full-time career.

Q. What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you because of your job?

A. I had the opportunity to attend the Dallas Market this spring along with another member of the editorial team.  It was special to get a sneak peek at all the newest Western fashion before it ever hit the stores.

Q. What is the most enjoyable part of editing for you?

A. The most enjoyable part of editing would have to be having the opportunity to feel like I am meeting new friends through their articles and columns.

Q. How do you feel about the current trend of going away from print production and more Web-based when it comes to publications?

A.I love it! I feel like print publications will always be viable because reading a magazine is an experience. I love the feel of glossy pages and being able to pull out articles and photos and put them up to inspire me.  At the same time, having the opportunity to deepen the relationship we have with our readers makes online engagement essential. We can share more, get feedback and truly focus on our mission to foster a sisterhood of cowgirl spirit and dirt road souls.

Q. Who is your idol and why?

A. I had an amazing mentor while working at the New Mexico State Fair. She had handled the marketing and sponsorship for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for many, many years.  She was so confident and sure of herself, and with good reason. She was a wealth of knowledge and I learned a lot from her!

A quick note about Dirt Road Daughters Magazine: DRDM is a magazine that is a side project developed and coordinated by a group of women with a common interest in the western/rural lifestyle and building a community around that sisterhood.  None of the writers or editorial team are paid for their work.  All revenue generated from advertising or subscription goes into printing and promotion of the publication.

World-Herald editor stresses journalism education

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

By Jaime Melton

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Fundamentals are important to be successful.

Connie White, State Government Editor for the Omaha World-Herald.

Connie White, State Government Editor for the Omaha World-Herald.

Connie White, state government editor for the Omaha World-Herald, believes the key to being a successful journalist is to work hard and focus on those fundamentals. She also says that students, by taking some classes they may not enjoy, might become well-rounded job candidates and future journalists.

White always knew she wanted to be a journalist.

She said it started back in high school in Grand Island, Neb., when she joined her high school journalism and yearbook club. After high school she attended the University of Nebraska-Kearney and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in political science.

White has worked for the World-Herald for 12 years. She attributes her rise there as an editor to “taking every opportunity that presented itself.” She started off as a reporter, but whenever a position opened up, she snatched the opportunity.

Eventually that led to her becoming the state government editor. Her job requires her to work closely with reporters who cover the governor’s office and the state legislature. Mainly, she said, she focuses on making sure the reporters get their facts right.

A typical day for White consists of “keeping a flexible schedule.”  No day is the same as the one before at the World-Herald. She said she always has to plan on staying late or going to an unexpected meeting, which can get in the way of editing at times. She said that by having a flexible schedule she is able to finish all of her work efficiently.

White has witnessed firsthand the changes that have come to journalism over the years. When she first joined the World-Herald as a reporter, the only journalism reporters and editors really worried about was print. As the Internet became more important and with the rise of social media, the World-Herald had to switch some tactics to get information out to readers more quickly. The newspaper added a website and set up a Twitter account. White confessed in a phone interview that she doesn’t use her Twitter account like she should, but she’s getting better and “trying to tweet at least once a day.”

White’s biggest story − and memory − at the World-Herald is a somber one.

On Dec. 5, 2007, a 19-year-old gunman killed eight people and wounded four others before taking his own life in a shooting at the Von Maur store at Omaha’s Westroads Mall, Nebraska’s deadliest shooting since 1958. White, herself an Omaha resident who had frequently shopped at that store, said the newsroom was abuzz because it was such a huge and important story. But she remembers there was eeriness to the work because everyone knew the victims were Omaha residents and felt personally tied to the tragedy in many ways. The public’s need for information was so great − never had the staff seen such an urge to get the news − that the World-Herald’s website eventually crashed.

At home, White loves spending time with her two children and husband, and she is also an avid runner. “Journalists need hobbies outside of the newsrooms to slow down and stay sane,” she said. After a busy day at work, she said, coming home and having some time to relax and chill with her family helps keep her focused for the next day at work.

White’s advice to journalism students is to focus on the fundamentals. Those interested in going into the editing business need to recognize that editors are the gatekeepers, she said. They need to catch any and all errors in a story before letting it go public to prevent legal issues with the business and the public.

She believes journalism students needs to take as many journalism classes as possible to become well-rounded candidates. Newsrooms love it, she said, when they hire a reporter who also has other skills.

“If you work hard in this business,” she said finally, “you will do well.”

Texas reporter-turned-editor says more responsibility suited her

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

By Emily Deck
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mary Dearen is the managing editor at the Midland Reporter-Telegram in Midland, Texas, the heart of oil country. During a phone interview, she shared her experience and insights on editing since starting in the industry more than 30 years ago.

Mary Dearen, managing editor of the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Q: Have you always worked at the Midland Reporter-Telegram?

A: No, I came here in 1981, and before I had worked at a newspaper in Colorado Springs.

Q: Was editing always what you were interested in?

A: I graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in journalism. I started at the Colorado Springs paper. I was a lifestyle writer and in editing. I got laid off there and then came to the Midland Reporter-Telegram on their copy desk. I was assistant city editor, special projects editor, lifestyle editor, and now I’m managing editor.

Q: Do you prefer editing to reporting?

A: Yes, I do. I don’t think I am aggressive enough to be a reporter.

Q: Was there a moment in your career when you thought you had made the right career decision?

A: I think when I became lifestyle editor. I had been in journalism since 1979. You always wonder if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and your life goes on. When I became lifestyle editor, I realized I am a better editor than reporter. It gave me more responsibilities and more flexibility to do what I wanted to do.

Q: What is a typical day of work like for you?

A: Monday through Wednesday, I work 8 until whenever. Then Friday, I come in at 1 because the city editor is off Thursdays and Fridays, so I am working for her. We check the budget, see what the lists of stories are for the next day’s paper, deal with phone calls from the public, letters from the editor and make sure those all are ready to go. Also, I’m assigning stories and working with the reporters.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as managing editor?

A: Making sure that we got enough copy in the paper and dealing with the public are challenges. We have to make sure they understand why we do the things we do. Dealing with the public is not a challenge in itself, but we get calls all the time. We just have to make sure our reader is satisfied with the product we put out.

Q: Are there ethical issues that you have to deal with?

A: The editor has to make those kinds of decisions. For example, we had a story a couple weeks ago, we had a police officer shooting back in May. We were finally able to get the reports from the police department, and video from the police officer’s cameras. We put it on our website. We had people complain. The dead person’s family complained that we did that, but we thought it was something that the public needed to know or should know. When the police department does something wrong, we let the public know that.

Q: What news is most dominant in Midland?

A: Anything dealing with oil is going to be on the front page. Most of the people here are in the oil business. With the price of oil, the economy is booming here unlike the rest of the country. Oil is always going to be No.1.

Q: How has your job changed since the industry has moved online?

A: We always have extra things to do. When I work Thursday and Friday nights, part of the city/night editor’s job is to make sure all the stuff is posted on the Web. It doesn’t really add to our job. It doesn’t take that long. It is just what the public wants.

Q: Are the stories changed for the Web?

A: We’ll put on breaking news or an earlier version on the Web, and then we will come back and expand it for the print product. But for the most part, stories are the same as they are in the newspaper.

Q: What kind of editing skills do you think editing students should know?

A: First and foremost, know AP style, read the paper and practice knowing AP style.  You should know grammar, AP style and always check your spelling. That is the most important thing.

Q: Do you have any advice for new reporters?

A: Get an internship, if you can. Have a portfolio to show for a job interview. We much prefer a student with a portfolio and a lot of experience to where he or she went to school. It is a lot more important.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: Just working with the staff. We have a great staff right now. The best part is interacting with them and making sure our copy is the best it can be.