Allen Vaughan has been on a destined path toward The Daily Nebraskan for longer than he might have realized.
His journey to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s school newspaper began when he landed a job at a local newspaper, reporting on high school sports. It was here where he met his wife, a copy editor and Daily Nebraskan alum, Danell Vaughan.
However, it wasn’t until years later that The Daily Nebraskan’s general manager Dan Shattil decided it was time to retire after 37 years at the newspaper. This left the role open for someone to fill his shoes, which have walked around the DN office dealing with the business, finance and long-term planning of the paper.
Shattil’s career at the DN began in July 1982, when the University’s Publication Board brought him on as the first general manager in the paper’s history. In 1982, the office was free of computers — writers and editors relied only on typewriters. One of his first tasks in the position was computerizing the office, which started with a sole computer used for business purposes.
“After the first year, I felt kind of guilty that I was computerized and everybody else was working on typewriters, so I brought it to the Publications Board at the end of my first year to computerize the newsroom,” he said.
After a few negotiations with the Publications Board, Shattil managed to install computers for the writers a few years after. This sent The Daily Nebraskan into a world of change, both positive and negative, that persisted throughout his career.
“I would drop off bundles of papers at a classroom and people would, I’m exaggerating a little but, they would swarm to pick up the paper. Then that kind of stopped 10-15 years ago. Our readership has gone down a lot,” Shattil said.
The one constant through all of the change, however, has been Shattil. At a college newspaper, the vast majority of staff has a maximum career tenure of four years before it’s time to retire. After nearly 10 times that span, Shattil’s DN journey has come to an end.
Danell, being a former DN employee, caught wind of Shattil’s departure and mentioned the vacancy to Allen.
“[Danell] was like, ‘wait, would you want this job?’” Allen said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know, would I?’”
After some analysis, Allen said he decided the job was a prime opportunity to delve into his acute interest of turning page views into profits.
“I’m very interested in the intersection of business and attention span. I used to say that I’m interested in business and content, but it’s different than that,” he said. “Now, there’s so many other things that are content and it’s just attention span –– that’s all media is.”
Allen left his position as consumer experience director at the Des Moines Register to move to Lincoln and tackle The Daily Nebraskan’s management, but his transition won’t be without Shattil’s 37 years of experience.
“[Shattil] and I are going to overlap for a few months so he can show me the ropes and I can just try to learn as much as I can from him,” Allen said.
Even after directly working with Allen, Shattil said he doesn’t plan on quitting the DN entirely after his retirement.
“I’m retiring, but I will still be around. After I retire, I plan to still come in as a volunteer,” Shattil said. “There’s a lot of things that I have not had time to do in my job.”
According to Shattil, some of those things include improving alumni relations and applying for grants, tasks that the hectic, day-to-day office schedule doesn’t necessarily allow for.
Allen’s career has seen him tackle more traditional journalism roles, start a new media business in Springfield, Missouri, and even teach as an adjunct professor at his alma mater of Drury University — a role in which he said he found validation in working with students.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting the students and the staff, and I’ve always found a lot of energy from working with students,” he said.
Besides the energy of the students, Allen said he finds value in helping students develop tangible career skills.
“It doesn’t have to be just journalists that come work at the DN, because there’s so much more than that. It takes business minded people, it takes people creating unique digital experiences,” he said. “So, there’s lots of different stuff that I want people from across all disciplines who want to come try this out, to come do that.”
To ensure that The Daily Nebraskan can continue to compete in the ever-changing journalism industry, Allen plans to employ change and experimentation. He said he values change and pushing the publications he works at to stay on the cutting edge.
“We obviously have to figure out how to be exceptional digitally,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we are modern, up-to-date and doing everything that the industry is doing because things change so quickly.”
Along with the new job title, Allen’s transition to the DN comes with many unknowns. As only the second general manager in Daily Nebraskan history, Allen is walking into a position ripe with new challenges and obstacles, which he said he’s eager to face.
“I’m just excited to get started, get on campus and see what we can do,” he said.