By Zach Hammack
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lisa Eisenhauer doesn’t work your typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Eisenhauer, 51, is the night metro editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She's in charge of the metro news that happens after hours.
Her night staff, while updating developing stories from the day, goes out and reports on news as it breaks, whether it is a fire or a shooting.
One of the bigger tasks as a night editor is contacting sources, said Eisenhauer, who typically works a 3 p.m. to midnight shift,.
“People are at their offices in the daytime, so you can track down judges and principals, for example,” Eisenhauer said in a phone interview. “At night you have to track them down at home or find cell numbers. It’s a challenge to find people at night.”
Eisenhauer, a native of Du Quoin, Illinois, fell in love with journalism in high school, writing for the student newspaper. She continued this passion into college.
After graduating from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, she started her career as a reporter.
Before taking her position at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Eisenhauer worked for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.
Eisenhauer’s initial role as a reporter gave her a unique view on editing.
“I had a reporter’s perspective on how challenging it can be to fill holes in stories,” Eisenhauer said. It was a challenge, she said, to get people to talk and cut down information.
Eisenhauer’s job has evolved from being primarily a reporter to now being the night metro editor in St. Louis.
It’s important, she said, to know that, as an editor, the story you edit is not your story.
“It’s their [the reporters’] story,” Eisenhauer said. "It’s my job to make sure it’s correct, that it reads well, and gets across the point they want to tell.”
Eisenhauer stressed the importance of maintaining the reporter’s voice while still upholding the story’s clarity.
Deadlines are especially important for the night staff at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch because first editions start printing at 10:45 p.m. The next edition arrives at around 11:30 p.m., usually finishing up around 12:30 a.m.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also functions as an online news source, setting deadlines for digital media around the clock.
“We work for online; it’s a new world,” Eisenhauer said. “We’re constantly keeping up to date, posting stories, updating stories.”
She explained how reporters and editors would stay overnight in the newsroom while the events in Ferguson, Missouri, were unfolding, posting as much current information as possible.
“We’re always trying to get a story first. We have to beat TV and all the other websites,” Eisenhauer said. “Deadlines are every minute.”
Eisenhauer deals with a lot of crime because of the time of day her staff covers the news.
With this type of news comes a lot of ethical issues for editors.
“There are always issues with crime victims, like knocking on the door of families of somebody who was involved,” Eisenhauer said.
Eisenhauer explained a recent case where someone filed a sexual assault claim against a high-profile individual. No one, however, was charged in the case.
“In general we don’t name anyone who makes those claims or anyone who is charged in a filed sexual assault case,” Eisenhauer said. “But this one had some grey areas.”
As a journalist, ethics is a part of the everyday process, she said.
One of the most important lessons Eisenhauer has learned at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is taking care of a story.
“You should never harm a story,” she said. “You may want to clarify, to improve, to illuminate, but don’t inject errors. Don’t overstate something.”
As an editor, she said, there exists a fine line one has to tread between overdoing it and not harming a story.
The dynamic between editors and reporters is a straightforward relationship, Eisenhauer said.
“I’m the point person for the night copy editors,” she said. “Any error in any story from the metro staff comes to me.”
These errors can include making sense of ambiguous quotes or making calculations on the spot.
“Part of my work is production - making sure everything that goes into the paper is correct,” she said.
Some important editing tools the staff at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rely on include the Associated Press Stylebook and reference books like a dictionary.
Editors use websites like LinkedIn to fact-check the spellings of names and titles.
Editing skills are some of the most important skills one can learn, Eisenhauer said.
She explained how her husband, who used to work in the journalism field but now works for a corporation, benefited from learning editing.
“They love his editing skills,” she said.
Eisenhauer described editing as a lost art and a necessary skill for anyone who is trying to get into the journalism industry. Her experience as a reporter taught her this importance.
“It’s the ability to use language well to communicate clearly,” she said, talking about editing. “It’s super important.”
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.