Interview by David Litin with Janesville Gazette editor Scott Angus
A typical day?
All are different based on the amount and type of news that we’re handling. I get to work every day about 7 a.m., and the first thing I do is read three newspapers – the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, the Wisconsin State Journal and The Gazette. That gives me a good foundation for what’s happening and what stories we want to pursue. It’s not just about the newspaper these days. We have a paid website, and we need to feed it with new stories and information throughout the day. We post breaking news immediately, and we add other stories throughout the day. Meanwhile, we build a plan for the next day’s print edition based on what’s happening and what we see coming. We meet at 11 a.m. for an initial plan and then follow up at 5:30 p.m. with a final meeting. The paper goes to press about midnight. I cut out about 7 p.m. after ensuring that things are well on their way. I’ll often sign in from home to edit a story or two or review progress and pages.
Yes, it can be, but it’s mostly great fun. The newsroom is an exciting place full of good people, and we work as a team to produce a strong website and an award-winning newspaper. I’ve been at The Gazette for 35 years and editor for 20, so not much happens that I haven’t handled in some fashion before. Still, it’s always challenging to find the best and most creative ways to report, write and present the news. I’ve got the best job in town .
I don’t do much writing or editing anymore. I supervise the 30 people who do. I help make important decisions on what to cover and how to cover it. People come to me throughout the day with questions on how to proceed, and I help them as best I can. We continually face ethical questions, and I’m the final word on those. I’m also responsible for hiring our employees, training them and ultimately firing them if they aren’t doing the job. I manage a $1.5 million annual budget for the newsroom. Lots of stuff. All interesting. All challenging. Most of it rewarding.
When we only had a newspaper, we had one deadline every day. Now we have deadlines throughout the day to ensure we have fresh content on the website. We have an electronic story budget that has details on every story we’re doing, what it’s about, how long it will be, what art goes with it and when it’s due. Reporters must keep that budget up to date and meet the deadlines. If they don’t, there are consequences. We have too many moving parts for people not to fulfill their obligations. Sometimes, things change, and stories can’t be done by deadline. We need to flexible in those cases and scramble to change the budget and make the proper adjustments.
We work with our reporters all of the time to help them improve their skills in reporting and writing. It always comes back to: What does the reader need to know? Why is this interesting? What’s the best way to present this story or information? We need to ask those questions for every story and make sure we’re presenting it in the best, most interesting, most useful manner possible.
If you’d like to be a reporter, I’d encourage you to get as much experience as you can. Work for the student paper if there is one, and do as many different things as possible. See if a local weekly or daily newspaper needs help. Get an internship or several internships. Be willing to start your career at a small paper and prove your value. Then you can move up to bigger and bigger papers or websites. Learn digital skills as much as possible, including video. Learn how to create, read and manage a database. Take advantage of every opportunity and learn and grow as a writer and journalist. They are all around you, all of the time.
I started as a reporter at The Gazette, and I worked my way up to city editor, news editor, managing editor and then editor. I’m also VP of news for our parent company, Bliss Communications. I did it through hard work and an insatiable desire to learn all I could about my craft and business. I still learn new things every day, and I will until the day I retire. You are responsible for your own growth and development as a journalist. Only you can make it happen.