Rob Schlotterbeck: From news in Missouri to sports in Nebraska

Rob Schlotterbeck edits for the sports page at the Lincoln Journal Star. He has been working in journalism for over 20 years, either as a reporter or a copy editor. Rob only recently started editing for sports.
Photo: MATT RYERSON/Lincoln Journal Star

Story by Drew Vogel, NewsNetNebraska

Rob Schlotterbeck is a copy editor for the Lincoln Journal Star sports page. He wasn’t always sure he wanted to go into journalism, but he did know he was skilled with grammar. Schlotterbeck’s aunt gave him books as birthday and Christmas presents as a kid. It sparked his love of the English language. However, when Schlotterbeck got to high school, he was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be everything from an astronaut to a marine biologist, “…but there’s not a lot of marine animals to study in Missouri,” so Schlotterbeck asked his counselor for advice. She noted that he was doing well in English classes, but he did not want to major in English in college. She told him that the University of Missouri has one of the best journalism colleges in the country. With that advice, Rob went to the University of Missouri and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Since college, Schlotterbeck has been in journalism for over 20 years, two of which he worked as a reporter. Even then, he was editing copy at least once a week. Directly out of college, Rob worked at the newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. He reported for the paper for a few years when a desk and copy editing position opened. Rob applied for and received the copy editing position and has been copy editing ever since.

Schlotterbeck aspires to be like his dad. “If I could be half the person my dad was, I’d be doing pretty well,” he said. He also finds inspiration in people like Chuck Yeager, Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. He admires how General Grant figured out what to do and how to do it when no one preceding him could. He’s not a fan of President Grant though, “that was a mess,” Schlotterbeck said.

Schlotterbeck has not always edited copy for the sports section. In fact, this is quite a new frame of mind for him. For most of his career, he edited copy for the news section. He switched to sports when he started working at the Lincoln Journal Star a few years ago. Most of the basics of editing are the same, the biggest challenge was learning new information. “Working in sports it is less important to know who the Supreme Court Justices are. Now, I can tell you the names of the first three quarterbacks in the Husker lineup. I can tell you those kinds of things.” He also says that moving from Missouri to Nebraska means learning everything about the importance of college football to Nebraskans. He was watching a game with other copy editors and they would say things like, “they haven’t run that play in twenty years.” He also joked with them about never seeing the famous 1971 face-off between Nebraska and Oklahoma, since he is from Missouri.

He also says that moving from Missouri to Nebraska means learning everything about the importance of college football to Nebraskans. He was watching a game with other copy editors and they would say things like, “they haven’t run that play in twenty years.” He also joked with them about never seeing the famous 1971 face-off between Nebraska and Oklahoma, since he is from Missouri.

A typical day on the job for a copy editor has changed frequently throughout the years due to constant changes in technology. Schlotterbeck says that he used to just be responsible for editing the stories and writing headlines. Later on, he had to edit the stories but also help with page construction. He currently doesn’t explicitly design the pages, but still feels like he is designing the pages. Since a lot of the design is relocated to Munster, Indiana, he needs to make sure that the people in charge of putting pages together know what is expected.

Schlotterbeck still enjoys his job despite the many challenges. He says that one of the biggest challenges today is keeping up with technology. Since so much is done on the web, it is important to keep a distinction between print and web. Otherwise, HTML code could end up in the print edition, “not good.” Frustration also arises in being a newspaper owned by a chain. A lot of times those people don’t think the same as journalists. This means the technology that is provided is frustratingly inefficient.

“Through all of that, it is still fun. I still enjoy it,” he says. He says he could never see himself doing anything else. The only reason he has ever left a job in the industry is because that place wasn’t fun to work at anymore. He still enjoys the work he is doing here. He enjoys many of the challenges that come along with the position. Though he had to learn new information in his transition to sports, he enjoys learning. “If you’re not learning, you’re dead.” He enjoys being able to say that he can get it all done in the stressful deadline. He wishes it paid better but loves what he is doing and that is most important to him.

Schlotterbeck’s advice for up and coming journalists: find an aspect of it that you enjoy. “I know reporters who have tried that, and hated it.” He says through all the recent scrutiny, journalism is not dying, it is changing. The hard part now is figuring out what it is changing into and making sure we stay ahead of the curve.

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