By Hannah Pachunka
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The hours are crazy. The pay is low. Little credit is given. But journalists do what they do because they have passion and curiosity.
That’s true for John Schreier, the managing editor of The Daily Nonpareil newspaper in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Growing up, Schreier wanted to write novels. While attending Papillion La-Vista High School, his interest in journalism sparked.
The excitement and varied experience drew him in.
“That’s what keeps me coming day in and day out; I would never not want to be a journalist,” Schreier said during an interview at his office.
As a 16-year-old, he was one of the few teenagers reading a newspaper every day. He said he was a know-it-all growing up, and that is what an editor needs to be.
“Being in charge, you need to wear a lot of hats,” Schreier said. Editing is not the only duty of the managing editor. Schreier needs to be able to jump around, knowing where and when he is needed.
This job is perfect for him because he didn’t want to be working at a desk all day. Working in a newsroom means there are no typical days in the office, and he loves that.
Schreier’s path started with his internships in Hastings and Sutton after he sent out applications all over Nebraska. He later earned an editing internship at the Denver Post through Dow Jones and then eventually a job at the Omaha World-Herald. Unfortunately, being a morning person and working a 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift wasn’t going to work out for very long. He moved to a weekly paper, owned by the same company.
Schreier initially thought that he would be a sports reporter. The opportunity never arose for that; however, many others did.
“The path to get where you want to go is not a straight line; mine was a very jagged line,” he said. For Schreier, this was not a bad thing.
Schreier was working in Papillion when his boss took a position at The Daily Nonpareil. Schreier started in the online department there after his former boss told him about the job opening. He worked his way up to the managing editor position.
His passion is talking to people and telling their stories. Schreier understands that the reader needs to be come first because journalism is nothing without them.
As managing editor, he answers complaints from readers. One day he received a phone call from an upset woman who found errors in the crosswords. Schreier felt like he let her down. He said journalism isn’t about the journalists and what they do — journalism is about the readers.
These days, reporters and editors must do more than just edit. When both of Schreier’s photographers are busy, he sends a reporter to take his or her own photos. He said being versatile is important.
Versatility also relieves tension in the newsroom. Lack of experience in reporting can cause difficulty for a copy editor. Having an understanding of each position in the newsroom helps the team be more successful.
The newsroom needs to be a coherent team that works together. He knows his team has his back. Having connections and friendships in the newsroom makes the process much easier.
“Journalism is an art and a science,” Schreier said. Strong writing skills mean nothing with poor research skills — and vice versa.
Schreier is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the journalists on his team. If a journalist lacks in one skill, he coaches and works with him or her to create work that is valuable to readers.
Just in the five years since Schreier graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, journalism’s pace has sped up. The focus is shifting to online news.
Schreier had to use online resources to learn web coding to do more for the online paper. Web coding is a skill he wished he focused on a little more before his position. He used MySpace as coding practice.
Schreier said a reoccurring challenge for posting online news is figuring out how to stand out because readers have so many options to get their news.
“I don’t know what it’s going to look like next year, let alone in the next 10 years,” Schreier said when asked what media will look like in 10 years. His two predictions for the future are that information will come from more diverse sources and news will be free. He said people don’t want to pay for news when it’s so easily accessible for free.
Often people forget that journalists are normal people with interests and opinions. Schreier has had upset readers accuse the paper of leaning too far in one political direction.
“I don’t hate your candidate. I don’t hate your team,” he said when asked what people should know about his job.
He pointed to his Cubs pennant hanging on the wall in his office and talked about how he has his own favorite teams and political stance, but that is all put aside in the newspaper. His team tries its best to be fair in reporting.
Schreier would advise any up-and-coming journalists to find their niche. He says it’s important to be well-read, persistent and prepared to hear ‘no’ more than ‘yes.’ Aspiring journalists need to be prepared for constant change.
When Schreier is hiring, he looks for someone who is hungry for journalism. Journalism is challenging and not for everyone. Those who succeed are dedicated and passionate to find the truth for the readers.