By Kaci Leppky
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Dennis Rudner will be the first to admit that he is not a traditional editor. From newspaper writing, to running a bingo hall, to working on a cruise ship, he has done it all.
Rudner, 58, from Canton, Ohio, has been the weekend editor at the Lincoln Journal Star for over a year and counting. Rudner started his career during a time when social media and other new norms did not exist, but he says he has not stopped learning and is always looking for new ways to tell stories. Telling stories and mentoring aspiring journalists are two of his greatest passions, he said.
“If I can pass on something and help make you or other kids here be a better reporter or a better writer then I am doing my job,” he said in an interview at the Lincoln Journal Star.
His father was a pharmacist who hoped he might follow in his footsteps. However, being a pharmacist was never the plan for Rudner. He knew from a young age that he was meant to tell stories, and one way to do this was through journalism.
Before beginning his career, Rudner attended The Ohio State University where his passion of telling stories grew. He received a bachelor’s degree in public relations with a minor in journalism.
Since his college days, Rudner has built quite an extensive resume. He began his career about three months after graduating when he became sports editor of a small newspaper in northeastern Ohio. He worked there for a while before continuing on to other papers as a copy editor and sports editor.
In 1984, between jobs, Rudner left the newspaper business for about eight years. During this time, he ran a bingo hall on an Indian reservation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for nearly seven years. He later worked on cruise ships. Although Rudner enjoyed putting his skills to work in a variety of fields, journalism was always in the back of his mind.
“I had learned how to run a business. I hired people. I fired people. I set policies. I did the marketing and the PR, and it was a lot of fun. But, in my heart, I wanted to go work for a paper,” Rudner said.
He returned to the newspaper business doing some freelance work for the Santa Fe New Mexican for a short time before finding his way to Las Vegas. Rudner and his family moved a few more times before coming back to Las Vegas, closer to where his wife is from. He remained there until the recession hit and he was laid off.
Rudner took a job as general manager at a La Quinta hotel in west Texas for about one year. He struggled living so far away from his family and still, he could not seem to let go of his love for telling stories. He returned to Las Vegas, was hired by CBSSports and was laid off again before finding his way to Lincoln.
Rudner and his wife were moving his daughter back for her second year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when he called Todd Henrichs, the city editor at the Lincoln Journal Star, and convinced him to meet.
“We went down to the Haymarket (and) had a cup of coffee," he said. "He liked what he heard, and about a month later he called me and offered me a job."
It was at the Lincoln Journal Star where one of his most memorable moments of his career took place.
In 2016, the judges at the 2016 National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism: Picture Editing competition awarded Rudner and his team with an honorable mention in the newspaper front page category for their work on the World War II veterans project “70 Years Later,” that ran on Sept. 2, 2015. Rudner and his team’s front page was one of 1,500 entries submitted for the international contest.
After a long, diverse and fulfilled career, Rudner’s advice for young and aspiring story tellers has generally remained the same.
“Always be curious,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to question things. There are always good stories.”
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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