By Jessica Schaecher
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Tyler Ellyson, editor for the Columbus Telegram, has had to make some big changes from the time he was in college. With only 10 years under his belt, Ellyson has seen the newsroom adapt in ways he never thought it would, due in most part to social media.
As editor of the Columbus Telegram, Ellyson does tasks from all ends of the spectrum. From fact checking and editing stories to sometimes having to write his own pieces, Ellyson still finds himself always willing to learn new things.
Ellyson, 32, grew up in Laurel, Nebraska, a town of about 1,000 people. After attending Wayne State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism, Ellyson worked at several small weekly newspapers before finding his home in Columbus. After about one year, Ellyson found himself in the editor’s chair, where he helped his staff adapt to a more online approach.
“The difference between when I came here was there wasn’t a whole lot of emphasis on online social media. It kind of still hurts us a little bit now that they didn’t get on board with some of it early on. We sort of lost that initially,” Ellyson said during an hour-long interview in his office.
The Columbus Telegram did in fact have a Facebook page when Ellyson started, but staff posted about once every two weeks. Now, the paper's Facebook has frequent posts. The 24/7 news cycle has also changed things. The newspaper also was slow to embrace Twitter, he said. Logistical issues involving missing passwords when he took over made the transition harder, he said.
“The immediacy is definitely one of the biggest differences I’ve seen. It’s interesting to see the difference between back then and now. Back then they had specific deadlines, and now we need stories in about 15 to 20 minutes,” said Ellyson.
Even though news comes and goes so fast nowadays, the Columbus Telegram still hasn’t fully adapted. Ellyson believes that the town isn’t big enough to have a constant online presence.
“The 24-hour news thing is not so big here because we aren’t so big. We don’t necessarily have to be thinking on our feet all the time,” he said. “That’s why we don’t have people who are scheduled to work overnight.”
The Columbus Telegram may only be making small changes in social media, but the change is big for many of Ellyson’s older reporters.
With the change in social media, there has also been a change in the size of newsrooms. Ellyson’s team hasn’t had to make huge cuts, due to its size, but several staff members are having to take on various jobs.
“Now one person has to do what three people used to do, and it’s obviously going to be more difficult to have accuracy,” Ellyson said.
One of the most astounding changes Ellyson has had to deal with is how much information online pages like Facebook and Twitter should have on them. Being a smaller newspaper, the Columbus Telegram doesn’t always have constant stories, so putting them out online can hurt the print publication.
“There’s a fine line on how much you give away on social (media). You can’t put too much on your Facebook post because if I give you everything, people can just read it there, and the printed story would be irrelevant,” Ellyson said.
Although several big changes are still being made, Ellyson believes keeping the traditional projects and stories in the Columbus Telegram is important. He has begun a series of stories relating to mental health.
All of the mental health facilities in Columbus have closed, and Ellyson wants to get people to see the seriousness of the problem. He said he planned to talk to county attorneys, state lawmakers and families whose loved ones suffer from the disease. It’s going to take coordinating and publicizing, but Ellyson believes the change in social media will help the story reach a larger audience.
“Mental health is a huge issue right now across the state, and being able to do a three-to-five story piece while posting a few online will hopefully bring out the seriousness of the issue to the larger cities in Nebraska,” he said.
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