Community Journalism Theme of April 20 Conference

Attendees will enjoy a pre-banquet tour of the Dawson County Museum before the meal and Hall of Fame inductions and Communications Contest awards ceremony.

“Keeping Community in Community Journalism” will be the theme for Nebraska Press Women’s spring 2024 conference in Lexington on April 20. Speakers will address some of the creative ways individuals and news groups are working to keep the state’s smaller communities from becoming news “deserts.” As operating costs and staffing issues shrink the number of weeklies and size of the state’s daily newspapers coverage of school boards, city councils and county commissioners/supervisors meetings have suffered.

Representatives from Flatwater Free Press will discuss their planned search for community “documenters” and Melanie Wilkinson from York will present on her startup online news blog.


9:30-10 a.m. – Registration at Kirk’s Nebraskaland Restaurant, located on the southeast corner of the Lexington I-80 and U.S. Highway 283 interchange. Enter through the north doors, located under the canopy.

10-10:45 a.m. – Nebraska Press Women general membership meeting.

10:45-11 a.m.  – Networking and setup break

11 a.m.-noon – Representative from Flatwater Free Press will discuss their “Documenter Project,” an effort to find local free press enthusiasts to cover school board, city council, village board or county commissioner/supervisor meetings in areas of the state without a local newspaper.

Noon–1 p.m. – High School Awards luncheon. Lunch will be a beef slider, soup and chips buffet.

1-2 p.m. – Flatwater Free Press reporter Destiny Herbers will speak. Herbers led the “Who’s Buying Nebraska” series for Flatwater.

2-2:45 p.m. – Melanie Wilkinson of York, managing editor of, will talk about how and why she launched an online media site that reflects her commitment to covering local news for her city and the surrounding area.

3-5:30 p.m. – Free time to explore Lexington.

5:30-6 p.m. – Social time preceding the annual Communications Awards and Hall of Fame banquet at the Dawson County Museum, 805 N. Taft. Don Batie of the Dawson County Museum board will give a walk-through tour of the museum’s Main Gallery and Main Street at 5:40 p.m.

6 p.m. – Catered pork loin buffet meal in the museum’s Main Gallery.

7 p.m. – Program begins with the Hall of Fame inductions, followed by the Communications Contest Awards.

Members are encouraged to make their own motel reservations for the weekend as we aren’t large enough to obtain a group rate. There is a Super 8 motel located right across the parking lot from Kirk’s. Lexington also has a Comfort Inn, Days Inn and Holiday Inn Express and Suites.

Registration costs are: $60 – full day (also includes banquet and museum tour); $50 – daytime only (sessions and lunch); $20 – lunch only; and $25 – banquet only;

Registration is now closed.

Past Conferences

Fall 2023

NPW explored the past and present in journalism at the 2023 fall conference in Gothenburg on Oct. 14. Nathan Tye, an assistant professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK), talked about the fascinating life of Maud Marston, Kearney’s first female journalist. John Hunt of Broken Bow, author of “Secrets of the Sandhills,” spoke about writing and self-publishing his first book. NPW member W.A. Ashes (aka Ashley Mohler) discussed her experiences with e-books. She is a self-published author who specializes in young adult fantasy and new adult clean paranormal romance.

Spring 2023

Nebraska Journalists: Proudly Persevering was the theme for the Nebraska Press Women Spring Conference April 22 at the Homestead National Monument Education Center on the west edge of Beatrice.

Speakers were author Alan J. Bartels, (shown in photo) Lower Loup Natural Resources District information and education coordinator, and former editor of NebraskaLife magazine; Carol Lomicky, an author and professor emerita in journalism at the University of Nebraska at Kearney; and LuAnn Schindler of Clearwater who talked about launching a new weekly newspaper in 2019, the Summerland Advocate-Messenger.

Bartels’ topic was “How not to become a writer,” including an update on his second book, “100 Things to do in the Nebraska Sandhills before you die,” which will be published in September.

Lomicky, an NPW member, talked about what newspaper mergers, acquisitions and closures mean for local communities.
Register for the Fall 2013 conference now.

Fall 2022

Keynote speaker Jennifer Nelson is a senior staff attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, where she leads its pre-publication and pre-broadcast review practice, oversees the publication of and updates to the Reporters Committee’s legal guides, and supervises its hotline for journalists. She talked about rights and responsibilities for freelancers. The afternoon speaker was NPW member Eileen Wirth, a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and author specializing in Omaha history. She talked about her recently published book, “The Women Who Built Omaha.”

Spring 2022

Nebraska may be late to the non-profit news movement party, but that’s not necessarily bad, according to the leaders of the Cornhusker State’s two non-profit news entities. Cate Folsom, editor-in-chief of the Nebraska Examiner, and Matt Wynn, executive director of the Nebraska Journalism Trust, which funds the Flatwater Free Press, discussed the challenges of launching these new non-profit media outlets at the Nebraska Press Women Spring Conference in York. Both said Nebraska’s relatively late entry into the category gave them a chance to see what worked – and didn’t work – at other non-profit news
outlets around the country. The two non-profit publications are based on different models, but both dedicate themselves to providing journalism as a public service that fills some of the gaps in the existing media.

Fall 2021

Nebraska Press Women celebrated its 75th anniversary during its Fall Conference October 9 in Grand Island with the theme 75 Years of Truth Telling. Keynote speaker was Sherri Burr, attorney, educator, TV arts program producer, newspaper columnist, travel writer and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author. She also is New Mexico Press Women president and the 2021 National Federation of Press Women Communicator of Achievement.

Burr’s topic for the evening banquet was “The Story Behind the Book.” She talked about her book, “Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1691-1865.” Published in 2019, it was nominated for a Pulitzer in the history category.

Her morning presentation was on “The Illusion of Control in the Digital Era.”

Spring 2021

The virtual event featured a photography workshop by Scott Umstattd, a travel and documentary photographer with more than 30 years of experience shooting around the globe.

In addition to continuing his own photography endeavors, he is a presenter at photography workshops and is the author of “Fighting the Evils of Darkness: A Low Light Photography Survival Guide,” which was his focus for the Nebraska Press Women presentation. He also has written hundreds of informative articles on his photography blog, What Makes a Picture Powerful at

Fall 2020

Held virtually via Zoom, the program focus was “Newspaper Start-ups.”  Gothenburg Leader General Manager Rebecca Steward and LuAnn Schindler of Clearwater, publisher and co-owner with her husband, Scott, of The Summerland Advocate-Messenger, talked about their newspapers, how and why they decided to create startups, and the difficulties and rewards of doing so.

Fall 2019 

Kristin Gilger, co-author of the book “There’s No Crying in Newsrooms: What Women Have Learned about What It Takes to Lead,” was keynote speaker for NPW’s fall conference on Oct. 12, in Fremont.  Gilger, the Cronkite School’s senior associate dean at Arizona State University and a UNL alum, talked about her book and lead a conversation about the challenges and opportunities for women in leadership.

A panel discussion, “When Disaster Strikes, Nebraska Strikes Back,” focused on the media’s response to flooding earlier this year. Panelists were Erin Grace, Omaha World-Herald columnist; Rose Ann Shannon, retired news director of KETV; and Tammy Real-McKeighan, news editor of the Fremont Tribune.

Spring 2019

NPW’s 2019 Spring Conference April 26 and 27 in Broken Bow featured a field trip to a ranch north of Broken Bow to see the giant wind turbines on the pasture hills. Matthew Haumont described the pros and cons of the wind farm project for his family, one of the first ranch families to approve land leases for turbine construction.

The keynote workshop by Laurinda Weisse, an assistant professor in Calvin T. Ryan Library at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, focused on digital filing system options for photographers, self-employed freelancers and others.

Fall 2018 

“Recording Memories:  Writing and Rewinding History” was the theme for NPW’s Fall Conference held Oct. 6, 2018, in Neligh. The morning session focused on historic writing, with author Marie Krohn, a Neligh native.  A former teacher, Krohn left the classroom after 17 years and em­barked on a writing career. Gloria Christiansen, a former educator from the Clearwater and Neligh areas, provided an overview of The Rural School Project. Christiansen spearheads a local committee which secured a former country school, moved it 10 miles to Neligh and is in the process of renovating it, as part of the Antelope County Museum complex. NPW member and History Nebraska board member Eileen Wirth spoke on “History Nebraska: Building Our Future on Our Past.”

Read an overview of the conference in the Winter 2018 Newsletter.

Spring 2018

Paula Lavigne, an ESPN investigative reporter working primarily for the Outside the Lines brand on television and online, was keynote speaker for NPW’s spring conference May 5, 2018,  in Omaha. Lavigne is also co-author of the book “Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University Amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis.” She is a specialist in data journalism and statistics and also trains colleagues on databases and investigative reporting techniques. She has degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Creighton University.

Lavigne presented a workshop on “Navigating ‘Multi’ Media: Setting Yourself Apart” where she talked about how in today’s market there’s an expectation for journalists to be flexible and skilled in different types of media – digital, print, radio, TV, social media, etc. — and what you can do to set yourself apart at both specializing and broadening your skill set.

Read an overview of the conference in the Summer 2018 Newsletter

Fall 2017 

NPW’s fall conference on Sept. 30, 2018, in Osceola, Neb., featured the expertise and achievements of members. NPW Professional Development Director Jill Claflin organized two panel discussions, one focusing on freelancing, the other on the creating award-winning contest entries for the communications contest.

Read an overview of the conference sessions in the Winter 2017 Newsletter.

Spring 2017 

Melissa Matczak photo

Melissa Matczak

“Striking the Balance” was the theme for the Nebraska Press Women’s spring conference April 29 in North Platte. Topics were work-life balance and balancing the “post it now” demands of social media with the need to produce well-written, error-free copy.

Melissa Matczak, the first female executive editor of The Omaha World-Herald, talked about how she has balanced her career with raising a family of three daughters. She also led a session on online news, including social media. Matczak joined the World-Herald in 1997 as a reporter and became an assignment editor in 2001. She served as features editor, assistant managing editor and managing editor before being named executive editor in January 2017.

Fall 2016

The celebration for Nebraska Press Women’s 70th anniversary continued during the Oct. 8, 2016, fall convention. The “Down on the Farm” event featured jeans and boots, outdoor workshops focusing on polishing the sense of place in your writing and photography, and lunch built around beef brisket and chicken from a smoker next door to the restaurant in a converted barn. The conference was held at Burchell’s White Hill Farm northwest of Minden.

Spring 2016

Speaker, Jane Hirt1Former Chicago Tribune managing editor Jane Hirt was the keynote speaker at the NPW’s spring convention on April 23, 2016, in Lincoln. A 25-year veteran of the news media industry, Hirt embodies the NPW’s 70th anniversary convention theme of “Embracing the Future, Respecting the Past.”

The UNL journalism graduate was called a “charismatic leader who could make change happen” by Gerry Kern, the Chicago Tribune editor who recognized her abilities and tapped her for managing editor/vice president of the Tribune in 2008, a position she held until Nov. 24, 2014, when she stepped down to pursue personal interests.

Past Convention Locations

Spring Fall
Conference canceled
Broken Bow
North Platte
Peru State College
Council Bluffs, IA
Mahoney State Park
Broken Bow
West Point
Council Bluffs
North Platte
Grand Island
Grand Island
Grand Island
Omaha/Council Bluffs
Red Cloud
Central City
North Platte
Red Cloud
Nebraska City