Digital sports editor: Building trust and communication with writers
Story by Amanda Acevedo, NewsNetNebraska
Clint Robus has worked as the digital sports editor and assistant sports editor for the Lincoln Journal Star for four years. It will be five years in September. “I think that’s kind of the role an editor has,” said Robus. “To be able to take a step back and see the forest from the trees.” Robus has had a love for sports writing from a young age, which made his decision to become one even easier. Prior to coming to Lincoln,
Robus has had a love for sports writing since he was young, which made his decision to become one even easier. Before to coming to Lincoln, Robus worked for the Casper Star Tribune in Casper, Wyoming for four years. At the Casper Star Tribune, he covered high school sports and everything in between. He coordinated coverage of different sporting events and often wrote stories too.
Being a digital sports editor, unlike a traditional sports journalist means he doesn’t always get to go out into the field to cover stories. While his favorite sport is football, Robus enjoys covering basketball here in Lincoln. Basketball is his favorite sport to cover because it puts Robus in front of the action and gives him a better feel for what is going on. Whereas football, says Robus, means you are typically further away up in the press box where you get a feel but it’s not the same as being nearly on the basketball court. That being said, Robus said any game with something wild or crazy happening is the most fun to edit for Robus because he relies on the reporter to put him in the moment and make you learn why the activity mattered.
Robus attended the University of Wisconsin and majored in journalism. Right after college, he worked with an electrician for a year before getting an internship with a sports agent in Madison, Wisconsin. Because the internship was mostly focused on public relations, Robus took a part-time job as a clerk for the State Journal newspaper in Madison. Eventually, Robus began writing for the scoreboard page and produced stories several times a week. Three years later, he got a full-time sports reporting job in Casper, Wyoming, moved nearly 1,800 miles and worked there for four years.
As digital sports editor for the Lincoln Journal Star, Robus’ job consists of reading over and doing quick edits on stories. He focuses on web editing. Most of the stories go through him and Clark Grell, sports editor at the LJS, to determine when they want to post the stories. After they complete the first story edits, they upload them to the paper’s website due to the need for immediacy nowadays.
Robus mainly edits the details that surround the stories, headlines, photos and videos, related articles, and making sure the story tags go to the correct place. Another huge part of Robus’ job is taking charge of the social media accounts, and making sure that the articles get spread all around.
“We didn’t get the daily newspaper growing up, but we would get Sports Illustrated. So, when it came I would grab it, disappear into a corner, and not emerge until I read the thing cover-to-cover. So, that’s kind of where I fell in love with sports writing.” Through this, he developed a love for sports writing through the long style of magazine writing, and when he knew he wanted to be a sports writer. His high school had a good journalism teacher for their student newspaper, which helped him improve
Through this, he developed a love for sports writing through the long style of magazine writing, and when he knew he wanted to be a sports writer. His high school had a good journalism teacher for their student newspaper, which helped him improve on his skills, and he was the sports editor his senior year. The Daily Cardinal, was one of Wisconsin’s school newspapers, and also where Robus was also a sports editor. While he wasn’t originally drawn to newspapers, he has found his entire career as a sports editor with newspapers and not magazines.
While there are pros and cons to print and online newspapers, Robus said one of his favorite parts of print is being able to hold and read a newspaper, because it stands the test of time. While he thinks newspapers in the near future may have to reduce their print editions each week, he thinks customers in small towns are still reliant on their daily papers for local information. Robus enjoys the website side of the newspaper because it is flexible, and not just because of how easily it can be to edit an article.
Robus sees room for improvement by better utilizing the amount of room that they have on the website, and making a differentiation between the LJS print and online versions of the same article. By adding more to an online article and deepening the interest, Robus said this helps the reader and will likely lead them to other articles that they may not have known they wanted to read about.
When I asked Robus what deadlines were like in print versus online, he said that often the reporters sometimes think that they have more time to work on a story, which he claims can sometimes be good or bad. One downside is that it’s a rush to get out a story first before the competition, but you also don’t want to put out sloppy work just to be the first one to get it out. Having a sense of immediacy, accuracy, and getting the information out in a timely manner can help build trust with the reader.
Some of the discussions between Robus and Grell include talking about taking more chances and adding more content to engage readers in the information that they get from each article. How people are getting their stories has changed so drastically, since it’s no longer about going and getting just a newspaper. One example Robus mentioned, was about a part-time LJS employee several years ago. This journalist went on the road with the Lincoln Starts junior hockey team, to write about what it was like to live on the road and be a junior hockey player. Robus loved helping and editing the project because it was something new and exciting to the sports section. While it seems like the most important thing to newspapers is “the fight for eyeballs” and the readers for each story. Now, due to the variety of ways for people to get their stories, newspapers are focusing more on what kind of writing they are doing and what kind of journalism they are doing. By doing this, from a social point of view, they can get more readers this way.
With sports, you always know that something is going to happen and you have the ability to schedule around that. The important part of sports writing is being able to tell what happened and why what happened was important. Part of getting this point across is by trying to make the reader feel like they were there for the event.
One of the most important things to learn and to do as an editor is to tell your writers no. As Robus mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what they wanted to do was bad, but more in the sense of reeling them back in. Sometimes this also has to do with working with each writer in what they could challenge themselves with and improve on. “Work your butt off, which can sometimes be hard depending on the pay you’re making or how difficult the hours can be. Work hard, do everything, and learn everything,” said Robus. Especially in today’s media, the more skills you have and more things you can do, the more attractive of an employee you become. One of the best things that Robus learned while working in Casper was, “When you have the opportunity, always work a day ahead. Because you’re going to find you can deal a lot with the stuff that you weren’t expecting on that day, if you’ve already taken care of today’s stuff you already know about.”