MONDOVI — Nash Weiss had lots of options this summer, especially after recently completing an internship with NBC News in Washington, D.C.
He pondered a fellowship in New York, among other possibilities. Instead, he’s spending the summer in a distinctly different setting than the nation’s capital or the Big Apple.
Weiss decided to return to his hometown to serve as editor of the Mondovi Herald-News, the weekly newspaper in this Buffalo County city of 2,500. He began overseeing the newspaper’s editorial duties in May and finishes work there Aug. 10.
A few months ago Weiss, a 21-year-old journalism major at UW-Madison, received a phone call from the Herald-News’ normal editor, Beth Kraft. She was going on maternity leave, she told him, and wanted to know if he would fill in for the summer while she was gone. Weiss decided to give it a go.
“You feel the need to serve your community,” Weiss responded when asked why he decided to give up more prestigious internship opportunities to return to Mondovi. “I care about this place and the people who live here. This is a way I can give back to the community.”
Weiss is no stranger to the Herald-News. His birth announcement once appeared in the newspaper, and a later article described his being nominated for an Emerging Leader Excellence Award. He also penned stories detailing cross-country races while in high school.
“Beth knew me from my having written for the newspaper back in high school,” Weiss said Friday afternoon from his office in the Herald-News building along Main Street, next to the Beauty Nook and across the street from the White Pig tavern. “She had faith that I could do this job, and I felt honored by that and felt like I should give it a try.”
Weiss quickly learned that working as editor of a weekly newspaper is a big job even if it happens in a relatively small community. The Herald-News is a three-person operation. In addition to Weiss, the staff consists of ad salesman Patrick Milliren and Bobbi Tiegs, a graphic designer, typesetter, copy editor and a self-described “jack of all trades.”
The job often entails working long hours, a fact Weiss realized during his first week on the job without Kraft to oversee him.
“You have deadlines that you have to meet,” he said. “This is on me ... You have to get the work done, no matter what.”
Weiss covers news events, writes articles about them and takes photos to accompany stories. He has written about a wide range of topics such as a methamphetamine problem in Buffalo County, storm damage, a youth softball team headed to a national competition and a recent Mondovi festival.
He said interacting with people is his favorite part of being a journalist. He also enjoys that aspect of his other summer job, working for WEAU-TV in Eau Claire.
“I really like interacting with people and talking to them about interesting things, about their lives,” Weiss said. “That’s the best part of this job.”
One asset Weiss said he brings to his summer job is the fact he knows so many people in the Mondovi area. His family owns a farm between Mondovi and Alma, and his past community involvement has linked him to many local residents, he said.
“In the news business, it really helps to know lots of people,” he said. “That’s how I get some of my story ideas, just talking with people I know.”
In fact, knowing so many people can sometimes cause potential journalistic conflicts of interest, Weiss acknowledged. For instance, his first cousin, Brady Weiss, is Mondovi’s mayor and he was related to a previous mayor. This year, the Buffalo County Dairy Breakfast took place at his parent’s farm.
“There are definitely ethical dilemmas working as a journalist in a small town like this,” he said.
Tiegs, who has worked at the Herald-News since 1969, credited Weiss for his enthusiastic approach and his diligence. She said she’s glad he decided to fill in for Kraft this summer.
“We are so grateful to have him here,” Tiegs said. “He works hard, he writes well and he likes to connect with people.”
Weiss was similarly complimentary of working with Tiegs and Milliren. He credited Tiegs with being the newspaper’s backbone.
“Bobbi is my right-hand woman, and sometimes my left-hand woman too,” Weiss said. “I couldn’t do this job without her.”
‘Stories to report’
Despite that familiarity with his hometown, Weiss said he never envisioned working at the Herald-News. In fact, he didn’t intend to become a journalist when he entered college. He initially studied accounting at UW-Madison, then switched to a law program before deciding to give journalism a try.
He subsequently landed the internship in Washington, D.C., and discovered he enjoys journalism. His work at the Herald-News this summer has furthered his affection for the profession, he said. He has three semesters of school left before graduating from UW-Madison.
“For sure,” Weiss said about working as a journalist in the future. “I am fully committed to journalism. It’s something I really enjoy and I have seen how this work matters in people’s lives.”
Weiss said his favorite story he’s written for the Herald-News is one about a local couple, Tom and Barb Kasper, who were reunited with the son they gave up for adoption 45 years ago. He has other story ideas, including a longer one about the impact of World War I on Mondovi, he hopes to write after his internship ends.
“That’s one thing I’ve learned, there are always more interesting stories to report,” he said.
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