By Nicole Hilder
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Omaha native Dan Sullivan, 65, has seen the journalism world change during his time at the Omaha World-Herald.
Sullivan earned his Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1973. He then attended Creighton University and earned his law degree in 1977.
He started as a copy editor in 1976 and has worked his way up to book editor. His other past positions include news editor, night sports editor, sports assignment editor, deputy business editor and national editor. Out of the seven different positions he’s held at the World-Herald, book editor is his favorite.
“I would say my job might be the envy for a lot of people in the newsroom,” Sullivan said, “but they don’t realize how much goes into it.”
The World-Herald publishes books about Nebraska football, Creighton basketball and other topics.
For all the books Sullivan works on, he uses the World-Herald’s archives and library system.
“Going through them is probably the best part of my job,” he said. “Seeing how things were viewed at the time they actually happened as opposed to how they’re viewed decades later, it’s kind of interesting.”
Sullivan’s favorite project he’s worked on is At War at Home: The Cold War.
Over 200 veterans sent in items to put in the book.
The book wasn’t a good seller, Sullivan said. Many people didn’t care about what veterans of that era had to say because they thought the United States lost those wars, he said.
However, it was a success for Sullivan. He gained more understanding about the war, which didn’t totally make sense to him at the time it was happening.
“It was a really rewarding experience,” Sullivan said.
During the making of Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty, reporter Henry Cordes interviewed former players and coaches.
“In the background, I was doing research, reading a lot of newspapers about (Devaney’s) ten years coaching,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan works with reporters as they write their books and edits once they're finished. Newsroom staff members write, edit and proof the books on top of their normal work.
It’s becoming more difficult for Sullivan to find people to help with book projects because the World-Herald staff is shrinking.
“It’s been hard to replace editors because everyone has given up on the field,” Sullivan said.
However, Sullivan thinks editing jobs are still going to be needed, but not in the traditional way.
I think it’s going to continue to be a good job in the sense that you’re going to be needed,” he said. “But I’m not sure who you’re going to work for, what the pay is going to be.”
Now, if someone wants to tell a story, they can just produce it themselves.
“You really see that in politics now,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan attributes this year’s presidential election as the kick starter of a critical change in independent journalism.
“It’s been a long time coming, but this is a pivotal point,” he said. “What I see happening on the broad scale of journalism is that no one really wants anymore to have an independent source of news.”
Editors will start editing things more to the way people want it to be told. They’ll start shaping facts and presenting facts to how people want to read them, he said.
Like newspapers, the book industry isn’t doing well.
“I think the general public thinks ‘I can write this great book and get it published and be a famous author,’” Sullivan said. “That world doesn’t really exist anymore.”
New authors self-publish through companies such as Amazon, market their book, gain a following on social media and then a book publisher picks up their book.
It’s difficult to say what the future of editing in the newspaper world is, but there will continue to be editing jobs, he said.
Some World-Herald employees, these days, leave to pursue a career in public relations or advertising.
“People who did that 20 or 30 years ago would be sell outs. They’d be cursed,” Sullivan said.
Now with the uncertainty of the industry, some journalists' move away from print is understandable.
Easy access to the internet allows for easy publication. Because companies aren’t seeking out newspapers and TV anymore, they write and distribute stories on their own.
More companies are now expanding their public relations and marketing teams because of increased use of social media platforms and self-publishing. However, this does not mean editing isn’t important, Sullivan said.
“In terms of editing, that’s still going to be a job but you’re not going to be an independent editor,” Sullivan said. “Those jobs are going to be very rare.”
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.
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