By Mack Campbell
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Tinka Davi isn’t ready to give up journalism.
At 77 years old, the retired special sections editor for The Sacramento Bee is writing stories – this time as a freelance reporter and editor.
Davi said she has a strong passion for sharing stories.
“I’m constantly learning. People are interesting,” Davi, who lives in Folsom, California, said in a phone interview.
As a freelancer, things have slowed. Weeks are less packed with interviews and stories, she said. But, she writes about things she is passionate about and doesn’t turn down stories.
Davi was the editor of special sections at The Sacramento Bee, where she worked for 18 years. Before she retired in 2000, she led a team of six people who worked for sections that covered real estate, interior design, home shows and other topics. They produced copy and layouts for up to six sections a week and worked on annual dining guides, gift guides, State Fair sections, auto shows and sections for other annual events.
Davi said she enjoyed the less hectic schedule of special sections because she didn’t have daily deadlines like the rest of the newsroom.
Davi said she didn’t face too many challenges as editor. She had a hard-working staff who rarely made mistakes.
Davi said she has always had a passion for writing, but she did not expect to work for a newspaper.
As a child, she seemed destined for a job in print. Her mother would put copy paper in manila folders and Davi would write and illustrate books. As a young adult, she listened to the radio and took notes as if she were a reporter. She developed basic skills in journalism class in high school.
It wasn’t until college that she took the plunge.
A teaching assistant at the University of California, Berkeley recommended she apply for a job at the Hayward Daily Review in Hayward, California.
“I interviewed for it and got the job,” she said.
Davi loves seeing her writing published and how stories affect people. She still sends copies of her stories to relatives.
She has been impacted by many stories she’s written. She is very proud of a story that ran in the California newspaper the Press Tribune in 2012 in which she wrote about A Touch of Understanding, an organization that runs disability awareness programs for young people.
Davi said the hardest part about being a journalist is waiting for call backs. When a source won’t call a reporter back, the reporter risks missing a deadline.
She said journalism has changed since she graduated from college. Journalists have to be more assertive today, she said.
One pet peeve she has is the overuse of adjectives. Reporters rarely would write “the horrific accident” or “the beautiful garden." It was up to readers, through examining pictures and the article, to form those opinions, she said.
One piece of advice Davi has for students seeking jobs in journalism is: Don’t work for free. She believes, although experience is important, writers deserve to be paid for their work.
By Nick Wilkinson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Glenn Stout, a freelance writer and longform editor at SB Nation, has painted, sold minor league baseball tickets, done carpentry and shelved library books during his 57 years of life.
But, his life's work has been writing.
The dual citizen of the United States and Canada lives on Lake Champlain in Vermont and has been a full-time writer since 1993.
Stout has written, ghostwritten or edited more than 80 books. His books include "Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year," "Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Changed the World," "Nine Months at Ground Zero" and "Red Sox Century." He has served as series editor of "The Best American Sports Writing" book series since its inception in 1991.
But, he wasn't always a working writer.
In the spring of 1985, a 27-year-old Stout was four years out of college with a degree in creative writing from Bard College and working at the Boston Public Library shelving books. His plans A and B for graduate school crumbled after being rejected from one school and not being able to afford the other.
Stout surrounded himself with books and the people who loved them. Aside from the local poetry scene and a weekly reading and beer fest in his apartment, Stout remained unpublished.
One day at the library, Stout read a few paragraphs about the 1907 suicide of Boston Red Sox manager Chick Stahl. One sentence stood out. It claimed Stahl had killed himself because of “the pressure of managing.”
Stout paused. If the pressure of managing killed Stahl then why hadn’t Darrell Johnson or Don Zimmer, former Major League Baseball managers, done the same? Stout’s intrigue led him to uninformative books, which led him finally to newspaper clippings.
Over a few weeks, Stout compiled pages and pages of printed articles and notes to keep track of what he was learning, Stout began to figure out what happened. Stahl, he said, had committed suicide primarily because of the pressures from an extramarital affair. Subsequent research by other writers has shown that he was already prone to depression.
“When I told my girlfriend what I was learning and she didn’t fall asleep, I began to realize that other people, even strangers, might also be interested,” Stout said.
He started to think about turning all his hours of research into a story.
But he didn’t know where to start. He was editor of his high school newspaper and won a number of local and state awards at the time, but apart from academic papers and poetry, all that was in the past.
So what did he do? He used his resources. At the time, he worked at the library. There had to be a book to help.
And there was. It was called “How To Be A Freelance Writer” and included chapters on pitching the story to an editor, writing a cover letter and other tips.
Stout tracked down the editors of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and Boston Magazine. In a letter, he explained to them his idea, who would read it, how long it would be and why he was the only person who could write it.
Three or four days later an envelope arrived. The Boston Globe thanked him for his submission and informed him that they weren’t interested. The letter wasn’t even signed.
Then he got a phone call. Ken Hartnett, who was then the editor of Boston Magazine, wanted to see him the next day.
Hartnett told Stout he would buy his story on spec, meaning if he liked it he would fork over $300. If he didn’t, Stout would get nothing.
Stout rose at 5 a.m. the next two weeks, researched at the library and worked in his apartment until he fell asleep. When he was done, Stout put the story in a new manila envelope and hand-delivered it to Hartnett’s office, several days ahead of deadline. The book said that would impress an editor.
The next day he got a call. Hartnett said he was buying Stout’s story and asked him what he wanted to write about next.
Since then, Stout has written hundreds of articles and consulted on a variety of editorial projects. Stout writes a monthly column for Boston Baseball and his work has appeared in the New York Observer, ESPN.com, Runner’s World, The Sporting News, USA Today’s Baseball Weekly, Baseball America and Sports Illustrated. He edits longform stories at SB Nation, a sports news website owned by Vox Media.
Stout explains more about his personal life, his days sick in the hospital as a kid suffering from an enlarged heart, his infatuation with television and ultimately his burning passion for the written word, in his foreward published in the 2015 "The Best American Sports Writing."
So what has he taken away from his experience thus far? In an hour-long telephone interview, Stout said the biggest mistake aspiring journalists can make is to get to a certain place in their career and think they have reached the pinnacle.
“You have to adapt,” Stout said. “When I wanted to get paid, I had to find the assignment. I had to get the story that nobody else was telling. There is no direct career path for journalists, so you have to be willing to change.”
And you have to be willing to do it all. Stout said especially in today’s social media-filled world, a young writer must be able to shoot video and talk on camera.
As far as writing for print goes, Stout said, it usually takes several years and several publications to build up a repertoire.
“The only thing you can control is your effort,” Stout said. “You have to bet on yourself in certain cases.”
Stout writes in his blog, “Verb Plow,” that a person attempting to join the freelance world should work a day a week without words. No words and no screens at all.
“It’s important to have a balanced life,” Stout said. “Not everything helpful to you comes from online. When you are out and about, you can sometimes find story ideas. Half the battle of writing a good story is finding a good story.”
By JP Davis
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Trying new things and trying to stand out is what led Nickolai Hammar to Hear Nebraska, a non-profit music and arts organization where he works as visuals editor.
Once a rookie to the cultural scene, Hammar now documents and explores Nebraska’s music and arts community.
He applied for an internship at Hear Nebraska out of curiosity.
“I felt like I didn't know anything about local music,” Hammar, 22, said during an interview at the journalism college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he is a student.
As visuals editor, Hammar uses stories, videos and photographs to promote the Nebraska music scene.
He likes that Hear Nebraska helps bring music to the under-21 crowd that can’t see bands in bars. And, it educates on the unknown regions of underground performance
“[When I was younger] I always heard about these bands that people were talking about, and I felt completely lost...I think the most important part of my job is providing an outlet that a 14 or 15-year-old me could have gone to look at, and found out about shows and bands,” he said.
Hammar, who is from Lincoln, is one of two visuals editors at Hear Nebraska. The other visuals editor, Chris Dinan, is in Omaha. The nascent non-profit has traditionally been run by interns, contributors and volunteers, but now has a small a full-time and part-time editorial staff thanks to grants and fundraising.
Hammar joined Hear Nebraska as an intern in 2013 and became visuals editor in 2015.
But, he also attends UNL, where he is majoring in journalism and nearing graduation. He has worked as the video editor and staff photographer at the Daily Nebraskan and created international multimedia pieces as a part of the Global Eyewitness photojournalism program.
At Hear Nebraska, Hammar works to expose Nebraska as a cultural destination.
“Nebraska is not a really saturated music scene,” said Hammar. “There is a lot of room for creativity for artists like Mesonjixx (a young Lincoln R&B band) that don't really have any comparable artists in Nebraska. I don’t think that there is anyone who is playing the same kind of music that they are…there is a lot of room for people to try new things and try to stand out.”
Hear Nebraska staff produce and write multimedia pieces, feature stories, artist profiles and concert reviews. Hear Nebraska also holds events and concerts centered on Nebraska music such as The Good Living Tour, a nine-date concert series in Nebraska.
Hear Nebraska’s mission is to make the state a globally-recognized cultural destination by cultivating Nebraska’s “vibrant, fertile music and arts community.”
One way to do that is with social media, which Hammar handles a lot. It's a balancing act of informing people, but not overwhelming them, he said.
“I think it is kind of annoying if you see the same posts from us on five different platforms…It’s like if someone were to call, text, email and Facebook message you, ‘Wanna hang out?’”
Hear Nebraska also acts as a cultural hub for information about shows and Hammar hopes bands turn to Hear Nebraska for exposure.
“People should understand that getting their band covered by us or getting us to premier a song or whatever is as easy as reaching out,” he said.
A huge part of Hammar’s job is to keep bands on his radar and cover new and exciting material, as well as help unnoticed acts become noticed. Hammar said he wants to show people the unique artists in Nebraska and encourage people to support them.
Hammar said, “The best possible outcome of me doing my job is a kid seeing photos or a video of a performance of a band and coming away from that thinking, ‘I want to go to that band’s show,’ or, ‘I want to start my own band because that looks … awesome.’”
By Cheyenne Rowe
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Brian Clark Howard, a National Geographic editor and writer, had always been attracted to science, but he never knew it would become such a large part of the stories he would tell later in his life.
Following the love he had for environmental and world issues, Howard graduated from the University of Indiana in Bloomington with degrees in geology and biology. But it was an internship at E-The Environmental Magazine that sparked his love for environmental journalism. He became managing editor of the magazine in 2001.
“I think that definitely the internship that I took was a turning point,” Howard, 37, said in a phone interview. “I was not sure how much I would like it, but I actually had a really good time. It was a lot of fun. That’s how I decided ‘Oh, I could actually make a career out of this.’ I never really knew exactly what I was going to do growing up. I was always attracted to science, but I hadn’t thought of this path.”
Howard received a graduate degree in 2007 from Columbia University School of Journalism in New York.
He has worked as a social media consultant, author and web editor at The Daily Green, another environmental Web magazine. In 2011, he joined National Geographic, where he has worked as a writer, editor and producer for the environmental news portion of National Geographic magazine.
“I do quite a bit of writing now,” said Howard, who lives in Washington D.C. and grew up in Indiana. “For a while I was doing a lot more editing.”
Howard’s days are packed full. He writes, attends about two meetings a day and keeps a running tab on National Geographic's Twitter account, @NatGeoMag. He also edits content on Snapchat.
Even with all the work, Howard said he enjoys his job because he learns something different every day, talks to interesting people and sees interesting things.
Working for National Geographic, Howard gets a special combination of the journalistic world every time he comes to work. The news judgment decisions he and the staff face tie in with immediacy and the demand for accuracy.
Because of the nature of the publication, writers and editors at National Geographic are more focused on deciding if “people are going to gain a lot from a whole new story on something,” he said. National Geographic usually operates more by adding to a story then they do by breaking the news to people themselves.
“That’s one of the things we look at,” he said. “Can we add to the conversation? Can we say something that’s meaningful?”
Something that is very important to Howard and National Geographic is the need for accuracy.
National Geographic is a scientific magazine, especially where Howard is concerned in environmental writing, and the audience it reaches is one of professionals, well-educated adults and “people who are interested about the world.”
Inaccurate information could damage the reputation of the magazine and its brand, he said.
The advice Howard had for aspiring editors or journalists was simple: Keep doing exactly what you want to do.
“If you’re an aspiring writer, write as much as possible. If you’re an aspiring science writer, write as much science as possible. If you’re a photographer, take as many pictures as you can,” Howard said.. “Just keep doing the work and getting it out there.
“Keep doing the work you want to do, because the less you do it the harder it is to do it.”
By Jon Dye
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sports have always been a part of 35-year-old Kevin Sjuts’ life, starting as a high school athlete and continuing today as KOLN-KGIN-TV sports director.
Sjuts, who grew up in rural Illinois, said when he realized he wasn’t going to be a professional athlete he decided he would be happy covering sports.
Sjuts ended up in Lincoln after graduating with a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His first job was at KLKN-TV Channel 8 in Lincoln and he learned a lot there.
“You have to soak up everything like a sponge ...ask questions, pick people’s brains, learn from as many people as possible, observe your boss and try to learn from as many people as possible,” Sjuts said in a phone interview. “There is more than one (way) to do something.”
After eight months at Channel 8, he landed a job at KOLN-TV Channel 10/11 in Lincoln in 2005 as a weekend sports anchor and reporter. He was promoted to sports director in 2007.
“No day is ever the same and that is one of the great joys of this job,” he said.
The days can be long for Sjuts. He gets to work between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and leaves around midnight. He puts together a sportscast, writes and edits, shoots videos for stories, coordinates coverage, sets up interviews and plans the next sportscast.
He has covered major sports stories such as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s jump to the Big 10 conference, the hiring and firings of Husker football coaches, the College World Series, NCAA Final Four for volleyball and more. One of the most memorable stories was the Heisman trophy ceremony in New York City in 2009 when Husker football player Ndamukong Suh was a finalist.
In 2013, he was named Nebraska Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Sjuts said he sometimes makes tough news judgment decisions as sports director.
“Some days there are pretty big decisions and some days they're pretty minor decisions,” he said.
Sjuts said in the 24/7 media environment he sometimes cannot wait to report breaking sports news until a 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. broadcast.
“In my industry of TV it is known or traditionally known as the times you get your news at 5, 6, or 10 o’clock,” he said. “We cannot just do that anymore because there’s just so many ways to get news. So we have to make sure we are providing information on Twitter, providing information on Facebook, and doing that allows us to connect with our viewers.
“No longer are we mouthpieces and just delivering the news. We’re more providing conversations with our viewers. They are able to respond and we’re able to get their opinion on some issues.”
Sjuts said the around-the-clock news cycle can also affect accuracy.
“A bad report can demolish credibility,” he said.
But, Sjuts said that while social media has made it easier for citizen journalists to report the news, viewers will always turn to local TV for one important thing: weather.
“Do I think local television is going to die? Absolutely not. … what if a tornado is bearing down on this area? Where are you going to go for what the latest news is on the tornado? Do you want to go to Twitter and read people’s posts or do you want to go to a trusted weatherman? For that alone, I think local television will never die,” Sjuts said.
By Annie Albin
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Johnna Hjersman knew she didn’t want to be a reporter. When she worked at the Daily Nebraskan as a college student, her shy nature clashed with her need to call sources for articles.
“I wasn’t ready to be a reporter,” Hjersman said during an interview in Omaha. “But then I started doing copy editing and I was like, ‘This is actually awesome.’”
From her start as a soft-spoken journalist, the 27-year-old has now found her voice in her role as copy editor for the Living section at the Omaha World-Herald.
Hjersman grew up in Alliance, Nebraska, and graduated from Alliance High School in 2006. Four years later, she graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Hjersman said she is grateful for associate professor of journalism Sue Burzynski Bullard, who pushed Hjersman to take the Dow Jones editing test, which helped her land her first internship.
“It was really a succession of things starting at UNL,” Hjersman said.
Her first post-college job was at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, where she was a copy editor for two years. She moved to Omaha after a college friend told her about a copy editing job at the World-Herald.
Hjersman said she built on her editing skills at both jobs.
She has expanded her editing skills beyond just copy editing. She designs page layouts, works with editors and selects and places wire copy and photos.
“Those are skills I don’t think I really had in college,” Hjersman said.
Hjersman said that every editing job is different. When she worked at the Democrat-Gazette designers and copy editors were separate. At the World-Herald, she copy edits and lays out pages.
Hjersman goes into work at 1 p.m. and leaves around 10 p.m. She spends most of that time at her desk editing and working on Go, the World-Herald’s weekly entertainment magazine.
“That is kind of like my baby,” Hjersman said.
Hjersman spends a large part of her day looking for stories on wire services to fill space in her section. She looks for stories relevant to current events or ones her readers would enjoy.
Hjersman also places and finds art for her section. Most stories will be sent to her with photos attached, but sometimes Hjersman searches for content to fill her page. She creates charts for her page as well such as the Top 10 downloads or Top 10 iPhone apps.
“You just have to jump in and go,” Hjersman said. “(On) the copy desk you really have to learn a lot of different skills. You might be doing something different every day, which is crazy, but kind of cool. You don’t get bored.”
Hjersman enjoys editing because she knows she is fixing a story and making it better. She can fix the story so readers do not get distracted by errors and from there they can trust that the article is clean, accurate and fair.
“That feels good to me, making it the best story it can be,” Hjersman said.
By Zach Henke
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Being a daily newspaper photographer has its challenges - marginal pay, stress, competition and deadlines - but it's worth it, said Omaha World-Herald photographer Matt Miller.
“It’s tough. The hours suck. You’re not going to make a bunch of money and it doesn’t get any easier (as you get older),” said Miller, 38, in a phone interview. “There’s not a lot of jobs out there. It’s competitive and once you have a job, you could still lose it through layoffs."
After attending high school in Brookings, South Dakota, Miller graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in journalism from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. He had three summer internships and a job at the Post-Bulletin in Rochester, Minnesota, before joining the Omaha World-Herald photo staff in 2002.
One of the struggles of being a photojournalist is constant deadlines, said Miller. Most photos are due shortly after he photographs them.
“Something that I don’t quite think a lot of students understand is that there really isn’t one deadline anymore, everything is a deadline,” he said.
Husker football games are among the most stressful to photograph, Miller said. After the game, Sam McKewon, an Omaha World-Herald sports reporter, does a breakdown video of how the game went to post on the World-Herald’s website.
“We try to get the breakdown video out as soon as possible because it’s one of our most viewed videos. If we’re 15 minutes late on that, it doesn’t cost us any money, but if we’re late on the still photos it could cost us thousands of dollars,” Miller said.
Miller said another important part of working as a photojournalist is having a good relationship with the photo editor. Miller typically edits his photos and transmits them, but an editor chooses which photos are published. Photographers and photo editors often discuss coverage, photo choices and ethics.
But late at night, for example, there is no photo editor, Miller said. Miller stressed the importance of photo editors.
“That is what I feel is one of the most important things that a lot of newspapers are lacking now,” he said. “I can shoot something amazing and if nobody sees it, is it still important? Will it still get people excited or change anybody’s mind? Because of that, editors are extremely important.”
Miller said he's encountered ethical dilemmas as well and leans on a photo editor for advice.
On Christmas, Miller was shooting a feature on the saddest place to be on Christmas. He was at the pediatric ICU in a hospital when a baby died, and he took the photos. He took photos of the nurses making casts of the baby’s hands and feet to give to the parents, and then he followed them down to the morgue. The photos ran online, but were deemed too sensitive to run in the newspaper.
“I talked with the editors and we decided that for a Dec. 26 newspaper, running a picture of a dead baby would be too much. I would’ve liked to see the photo run because I think that it would’ve had a lot of impact. However, I do understand why the editor made that decision. I can see both sides of it,” Miller said.
There are different standards for online photos, he said.
"I think you can get away with a little bit more online because it’s not just sitting out there on the counter and hitting you over the head," he said. “Usually online things seem to come and go. It’s almost like a video. With a video, you can have the same moment as a still photo and it just doesn’t register as much."
Miller said being a photojournalist has its perks. He meets new people, gets to know his community and is learning every day.
“I enjoy not being in an office," he said. "I enjoy meeting different people and seeing things not everyone gets to see. I love solving problems and don't mind deadline pressure.”
And, on occasion, his photos move someone.
“The rewarding part is rare,” he said. “Every once in a while, a photo will be important. It's not going to change the world, but maybe someone will appreciate the view it gives them or make them feel something they didn't know existed, and that's pretty rewarding.”
By Parker Cyza
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
When Kyle Cummings was in middle school, he was asked — as every kid is — what he wanted to be when he grew up.
He thought about it, and wrote his answer on paper to put in his time capsule for school.
“It was the first time I’ve ever been asked what I wanted to be,” Cummings said in an interview at his office at the Alliance Times-Herald. “Initially, I wrote down that I wanted to be a play-by-play announcer. And that adapted into ‘I want to cover sports.’”
So Cummings kept with it. He wrote for his high school newspaper and looked into potential careers for covering sports.
“And I think I’m too stubborn,” Cummings said about his career choices. “I can’t change my mind very easily.”
Cummings, 23, is from Alliance, a small Nebraska town of about 8,500. He graduated from Alliance High School in 2010, and later attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At UNL, he majored in journalism and covered Husker sports — particularly Husker football — for the Daily Nebraskan.
“I kind of got lucky (to cover Husker football),” he said. “I had only worked at the DN for two semesters and that was basically because they were really low on numbers when I got in.”
When Cummings became one of the older students at the paper, he got to cover Husker football.
He graduated from UNL in December 2013 and landed a job with the Columbus Telegram in Columbus, Nebraska, and worked as a sports reporter from December 2013 to March 2015.
At the Telegram, Cummings said he learned the value of writing local content. People still care about what’s going on in town, especially with sports, he said.
“I kind of got a feel for how to balance things and how I kept local content in the paper,” he said.
Cummings also learned about the importance of building sources. Talking to players, coaches or fans is important for nearly every story, he said.
“The communication with coaches has always been big for me,” he said. “They’re huge in helping you find stories and developing those relationships.”
In March 2015, Cummings returned to his hometown of Alliance to write for the Alliance Times-Herald. He was offered the sports editor position, and is the only sports writer on staff.
With no other sports writers on duty for the Times-Herald, Cummings juggles everything on the sports page. He covers high school games in Alliance and the nearby town of Hemingford. He takes the pictures and writes previews and features. He collects sports stories from the nearby colleges of Western Nebraska Community College and Chadron State College and decides what other content he’ll put in the paper.
“(The Alliance Times-Herald) has given me free reign. They’ve let me go out and cover what I want to cover, how I want to cover it and where I want to go,” he said.
The best part about his job, Cummings said, is getting to know the people he’s covering.
“When I got back (to Alliance), I didn't know hardly anyone anymore,” said Cummings. “But it’s been nice getting to go around and get to know the kids and their families.”
The toughest part about his job is deciding what content to put in and how to balance the coverage.
“It’s a lot more important in a small town paper,” he said. “It’s tough to decide where I’m going to go this weekend to make sure I give everyone fair coverage, so I’m not overlooking a sport. It’s a balancing act.”
At the start of every week, Cummings goes through the upcoming events around the area for the week and decides what he’s going to cover and what he can’t.
“My main goal has been at least one local story per day,” he said. The rest, he said, goes to national, regional or state stories.
Cummings said he gives local stories a high priority. However, in a smaller town, there isn't a game or event happening every day. On the days where there’s not a game, he’ll plug in a feature or a preview of a game happening the following day.
The Times-Herald is largely a print-oriented newspaper. It has a website, which mostly posts local stories for readers, but it will have to get better, Cummings said.
“We’ll have to integrate more into online eventually,” he said. “Right now, Alliance has an older readership so that’s really helped us stay with print. So we have a few years, but we’re starting to do some online publishing.”
With the constant change in the world of journalism, Cummings said the biggest change will be how people get their news, which, he said, “is scary for small town newspapers” that don't have a strong online presence.
“It’s going to have to come out quicker and to a wider audience,” he said. “Going forward, it’s just a matter of how we’re getting (stories) to them and to what medium we’re getting it to them.”
To boost viewership online, Cummings keeps tabs on his Twitter account, but is not as active as he should be, he said.
“I don't update it as quickly as I would like,” he said. “But just looking at the clicks and the views, it’s clearly important and clearly where people are starting to get their news. They start with social media and get to the news outlets that way. It’s kind of the gateway in.”
Cummings' advice for journalists is simple. “You’ve got to learn to love what you do,” he said. “You have to learn to have a passion for what you do. Otherwise it will show in your work quite clearly that you didn't care that day.”
By Abi Wedding
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Being a young, fresh face in the journalism industry can be a challenge, but it's one Amanda Brandt, digital content editor and city hall reporter at the Kearney Hub, has tackled head on.
Since she graduated from Creighton University in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Brandt has worked at two Berkshire Hathaway-owned papers. In January, she'll move to a Berkshire Hathaway paper in Texas.
Brandt didn’t always have her heart set on journalism. She changed her major to journalism her senior year of college.
"I wanted to go into politics or law,” Brandt, 23, said. “Maybe something international because I love to travel.”
She soon realized the path wasn't a good fit. At the suggestion of a professor, she switched to public relations and marketing. The summer before her senior year, Brandt had an internship at a marketing firm, which pushed her toward journalism.
Before joining the Kearney Hub in the summer of 2014, she worked at the Omaha World-Herald as a special section intern and covered community events.
After that, she joined the Kearney Hub because she wanted to work in her hometown and stay at a newspaper owned by BH Media Group, the Berkshire Hathaway company that owns newspapers around the country.
"You want to have a job you love and I do love my job, but staying in the same company is helpful in the long run," Brandt said during a telephone interview.
As digital content editor at the Kearney Hub, Brandt oversees all the online material and creates unique media plans. She finds, follows and develops stories using social media platforms.
"As far as the various platforms go, Twitter is my favorite because I like the challenge of the 140 character limit. It's a fun exercise in brevity," Brandt said.
As a young journalist, Brandt was expected to know how to shoot and edit photos and video and run a stellar social media plan, all while reporting news. At the Kearney Hub, she began as a feature and digital reporter handling basics, such as copying, pasting and posting stories on the Web.
Over time, Brandt put more of an emphasis on adding various components to the website. She gets satisfaction jazzing up a story by adding videos, creating graphics, and embedding related links.
"The way I changed the paper's media presence proved to the people here that I'm good at the Web stuff and that I have the writing, reporting, and technical skills needed to boost the online presence and traffic," Brandt said. “Seeing the amount of viewer traffic for a story that I worked hard on was astonishing.”
In January 2016, Brandt plans to take on a new challenge when she becomes digital content editor for The Eagle, a BH Media Group newspaper in Bryan-College Station, Texas.
She is looking forward to working at a morning paper. The Kearney Hub comes out in the afternoon.
At The Eagle, she will write headlines and captions for reader-submitted images, but her concentration will be on social media and promotional content.
"They currently have the managing editor handling all of the online content and it's too much for one person so they need somebody to focus on it," Brandt said.
She hopes that leaving the role of reporter will allow her more time to write on her own. “I'm really going to miss having a beat to report,” said Brandt, who is looking forward to updating her personal blog. “But I look forward to writing for myself again.”
By Abbie Petersen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Being a reporter has been a lifelong dream for Haley Herzog, 22-year-old Omaha native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate.
Her passion has its origins in her 1999 abduction by a stranger. Herzog, then a 6-year-old girl, was kidnapped from a Council Bluffs, Iowa, park and released later that day. She says incorrect information was released by the media.
So, Herzog learned at a young age the importance of verifying facts. Herzog wanted to be a reporter so that she could report the truth. Before graduating from UNL with a degree in journalism and political science, Herzog had two internships and was involved in the National Broadcasting Society.
Although her kidnapping happened 16 years ago, her motivation to report persists today.
In her job at WLNS-TV in Lansing, Michigan, Herzog reports and produces. As a reporter, she pitches stories in morning meetings, gathers contacts and sets up and conducts interviews.
“I make sure I shoot b-roll and then come back to the station and pick out the sound bites I want to use, write my script, get it approved, voice my track and then put my track and sound bites together and edit corresponding b-roll over it to bring it all together,” Herzog said in a phone interview.
Herzog said she never knows what to expect day-to-day. She said she is never bored with her job and is always on her feet, meeting interesting people.
Although Herzog has been working in Michigan for several years, she hasn’t worked on a major news story.
“Since I have been here it has been a lot of hard news or really fluff stuff,” Herzog said.
She enjoyed a ride along she did with the Greater Lansing Food Bank delivery truck - an assignment that started at 7 a.m. Herzog carried in boxes and met the volunteers who help at the food bank.
Herzog writes and edits her own scripts and then gives them to a news director to critique. Herzog said editing her writing is important, but so is editing her shots.
She advised other broadcast reporters to re-read scripts many times and in different voices, check shots to make sure they are clear and not overexposed or underexposed.
When it comes to making tough news decisions, Herzog said sometimes it’s just about asking.
“I always ask before shooting someone, and with stories I feel iffy on, I ask my news director," she said.
Another thorny issue is social media, she said.
Herzog said social media and the race to be first have hurt journalism's credibility.
"Everything happens so fast so we have to do our best to get it out to the public, while maintaining our credibility with keeping the facts straight," she said.
One of the biggest struggles Herzog faces is competition in the TV news industry. She said that finding a first job is a struggle, the salary is low and newcomers often start out on less desirable shifts or do jobs others might not want to do.
She was hired part time as a part-time producer. She now produces the weekend morning show, which means she wakes up at 11 p.m., gets to work at 12:30 a.m. and goes home at 9:30 a.m.
“Producing has made me a much better writer," she said. "I love the small morning weekend team I work with, and I have had a lot of opportunities to report for the show as well.”
In the future, Herzog hopes to be reporting full time and she said she would love to anchor in a community that she volunteers in and has connections.
Herzog said she didn’t let the 1999 kidnapping define her. If anything, it increased her drive to do the thing she loves: reporting.
And, Herzog said she has some advice for journalism students.
“Work hard now, get internships, talk to people, stay in touch with contacts, and don’t give up," she said. "It is a hard industry to break into and don’t let that keep you down. Some days and even weeks are really hard and you feel like giving up or that it is all just too much, but if you really love it you will make it through."
A note about the content: This site showcases the final projects of University of Nebraska-Lincoln editing students. Each semester, students pick a journalist or communications professional to profile. This is their work.
This is me. I run this site.