What do you do?
I am editor of the Rural Missouri magazine, the largest paid-circulation monthly in Missouri with a circulation of 550,000. I have served in that position longer than any other editor in the 69-year history of the publication. I also serve as the vice president of communications and printing for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Besides overseeing a staff of eight, I continue to take photos and write about life in rural Missouri. I have written 15 books, most on the history of electric cooperatives.
How did you get your job?
I worked for a year and a half as a sports writer/photographer for the Daily American Republic newspaper in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Meanwhile, I continued to write features and do photo essays on a variety of topics. I received Rural Missouri while in college and loved its use of the photo story. I always wanted to work for Rural Missouri, and most of the stories in my portfolio would have dropped right in its pages. When a notice of a job opening at Rural Missouri showed up in the J-School placement newsletter, I applied and was hired. I’ve been there since November 1985.
What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
There is only one “e” in Boonville. Well, more than that. I learned to do any type of story, from covering the police beat to writing features to working the food beat. That was in addition to learning Missouri-style photojournalism and graphic design. I also learned to sweat the details, from making sure photos on a layout are spaced consistently to ensuring the word I use is the right word.
What advice do you have for current students?
Decide early on where you want to work. Learn what skills are required to work there and apply yourself to learn those skills. Let them know of your interest, beg for an internship, tell them what you will bring to the job, take whatever sideways steps you need to get the required experience but never give up on the goal. This is a better approach than to graduate and then apply for every job that is open. Why lower yourself to working at a job you do not want just because they were hiring? Better to match yourself to your dream job and go after it. When you apply for a job, bring your tools of the trade along. Offer to work a day at no charge, no obligation, so they can see what you can do. Say, “I can knock out a page, shoot some enterprise photos, edit that page sitting there, design something. I know you are shorthanded, let me help.” You can do it because you went to Mizzou!
What is your favorite J-School memory?
Talking my way into the photo pool to cover Jesse Jackson and almost getting stuck on his campaign bus on a one-way trip to Nebraska. Also Journalism Week was a lot of fun, met Ted Koppel and Andy Rooney.