Korbelik’s insights on editing, technology evolution in news

Jeff Korbelik has worked at the Lincoln Journal Star since 1996.

Story by Alex Hotovy, NewsNetNebraska

Jeff Korbelik took a direct path to his current job as the features editor for the Lincoln Journal Star.

Since high school, Korbelik had known that he would be a journalist. Attending Lincoln Southeast, he covered high school sports.

“Originally I wanted to be a star pitcher, but that wasn’t going to happen,” Korbelik said. “Writing about it was the next best thing.”

After that, Korbelik attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in Journalism and English. In 1986-1987, his senior year, he served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Nebraskan, the student paper for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

His first job out of college was writing for the Bellevue Leader, where he stayed for a year. At this publication, he served several different roles.

“I was an entertainment writer, a sports writer, did backup photography,” Korbelik said. “I did whatever they needed me to.”

He moved to Grand Island in 1988 where he stayed until 1996, serving as the sports editor for the Grand Island Independent.

In 1996, he moved back to his hometown to work for the Lincoln Journal Star as a sports reporter and a copy editor. Two years later, he became a features reporter, and in 2012, he was promoted to features editor.

Given the amount of time spent in the field of journalism, especially as an editor, Korbelik is able to recall differences between eras.

“At Grand Island, there was no social media, so there was a different approach there,” Korbelik said. “A lot less immediacy.”

Not only that, but the rise of the internet also shaped how editors and newspapers have to publish stories. Originally, stories were simply copied from their work and placed online later. Now, certain content is specifically made for online readers.

The role of email has also changed dramatically in Korbelik’s time as a journalist.

“In the 90s, we had a computer in the office that was reserved for checking emails. We would maybe get two or three a day,” Korbelik said. “Now, I personally get two to three hundred a day.”

As overwhelming as this may seem, this technology serves a valuable role in the office. Maintaining contacts is valuable as a journalist, specifically as a features editor. These contacts allow him to be aware of new restaurant openings and other events around town that could be good stories.

Then, he works with a reporter to solidify a topic.

Korbelik takes a very collaborative approach to the editing process – beginning by helping the writer focus on an idea, and providing feedback until the article is completely finished and ready to publish.

“At the beginning, we’ll both discuss ideas. At the end of the process, I usually focus on copy editing accuracy, with names and such,” Korbelik said. “Maybe we’ll tinker with the composition at that point if need be.”

Even today, Korbelik still publishes three or four articles a week along with his role as an editor. He focuses on dining, television, and performing arts, all of which constitute a feature story.

Korbelik has to take a unique approach to editing when it comes to writing articles, given that he cannot singularly edit himself. To hold his own writing accountable, he sends his stories to the city desk, which comprises of mostly local news and sports, among other things for edits.

He has been working for newspapers for so long and has seen the rise of the internet which can share breaking news at rapid speeds. Although there is enough material on wire services to fill up a paper with national news, Korbelik still sees the value in local journalism, including features.

“We’re telling the stories of local people,” Korbelik said. “You won’t find them anywhere else.”

For example, Korbelik went to a new sushi restaurant on its opening day, described the restaurant and gave a review of the food. Stories like this will not be found nationally, but serve a role for those in the Lincoln area.

Features writing encompasses many different writing styles, according to Korbelik, because of the broad nature of the genre.

“You have to tailor articles differently,” Korbelik said. “A food review and a profile of a local theater performance have to be approached differently.”

Food and business reviews garner the most online clicks of any features articles, but still follow behind crime, local news and Husker football news in terms of online reads.

Korbelik is aware of Nebraska’s affinity for sports, especially football.

“Husker football seems to dominate everything,” Korbelik said.

Korbelik would know best. Being a journalist in Nebraska for over 30 years, he has deep knowledge of the state and the news practice. He has also been privy to viewing the evolution of the newsroom in regards to technology, which in turn has shaped his editing techniques over the years.

“It used to be that reporters would just copy and paste the few inches of text they had in the newspaper and put it online. You can’t do that now,” Korbelik said. “It needs to be different and it needs to be out quickly.”

Jeff Korbelik is also on Twitter.

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