Article - The real story of a real world reporter

The real story of a real world reporter

Even as a student she gets to work with real clients and real editors.

Posted: Wed, May 4, 2011

Alissa Skelton of Omaha is a senior journalism and political science major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Since January, she's been working as a paid fellow at the Omaha World-Herald's Lincoln bureau through the World-Herald's "Real World" fellowship program.

She interviews real subjects. She consults with real editors. She writes real stories – some have even made Page One. And she's learned the secret to being a real good reporter (or at least an office favorite).

In her own words:

Since newspapers have been downsizing, there are few quality, hands-on paid learning experiences left for college journalists. It's nice to see that the Omaha World-Herald fellowship program offers a wonderful reporting opportunity for four University of Nebraska–Lincoln young journalists each semester.

Since spring 2009, 20 UNL students have been given the opportunity to work alongside the World-Herald's experienced writers and editors as fellows – the paper even eventually hired one of them as a full-time reporter.

To become eligible, journalism students first must take "The Real World" class. World-Herald reporters visit "The Real World" class each week to teach journalism students about the art of interviewing and reporting on deadlines.

Once hired, fellows work out of the Lincoln news bureau and correspond with an editor, typically from Omaha. Students are paid $100 a week and receive a $2,500 stipend at the end of the semester. In addition, the newspaper's endowment pays for three hours of tuition credit.

I work 20 hours per week and I am usually the first one in the office at 8 a.m. When I get to the office I brew a pot of coffee. The secret to being a good reporter is being able to guzzle down several cups of black coffee. I'm kidding. But making coffee does make me an office favorite.

Next, I call Melissa Matczak, the Omaha World-Herald assistant managing editor in Omaha. She assigns me stories and coaches me on how to find focus in my reporting and writing. Matczak and several other section editors have given me specific editing advice on how to shape a colorful story concisely.

I've written about 20 stories that have appeared on the front page and the front-page sections of Midlands, Money and Living. The clips I've accumulated from working as a fellow are invaluable.

I've written about a variety of topics including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's search for a gunman on East Campus in February, Nebraska's proposed legislative bill to more tightly regulate exotic reptiles and one story about a family who adopted six international children from poverty.

I'm so grateful to be given this opportunity. A journalism college degree isn't complete without real world experience. I have learned a lot and have been mentored by many of Nebraska's greatest journalists and editors. Learning the basic AP Style rules in a classroom was beneficial, but getting outside the classroom and working in a newsroom has been the capstone of my education.


Financial support for students like Alissa is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. To find out how you can help the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications with scholarships or how you can help enhance its programs for students, contact Joanna Nordhues at 402-458-1178.

Private gifts account for a staggering 73 percent of the college's operating budget.


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