Steven Meyerhoff’s 31-year career as an editor of various forms of media, including newspapers, magazines, books and online content, has allowed him to focus on his passion, journalism that evokes an emotion from readers.
“It can be in a newspaper or magazine, bound as a book or online; it could be a photo, or a video,” Meyerhoff said in an email interview. “I love journalism that has a purpose, that makes people think or act, that makes people angry, or happy, laugh or cry, or in this day and age ‘share’ or ‘like’ or ‘favorite.’”
Meyerhoff discovered an appreciation for English and creative writing in high school because of its subjective nature.
“Math and history and science always seemed to have a right answer, and a wrong answer (I excelled in wrong answers); but in English and creative writing, who could tell me what I thought or felt was ‘wrong’?” Meyerhoff said.
Meyerhoff realized he could combine his interest in English and creative writing with his true passion, sports, and follow a career path that involved both of them.
He pursued this career path at the University of Missouri—Columbia and graduated in 1984.
“Mizzou was an outstanding experience and preparatory ground for the ‘real world,’” Meyerhoff said.
As the top journalism schools in the early 1980s, Missouri provided its students with real-world resources and a network of alumni that gave students advice and helped them find internships.
Meyerhoff recounted what Brian Brooks, his professor for Newswriting 101, said to the class on the first day of Meyerhoff’s journalism classes.
Brooks asked the class, Why are you here? What do you want to accomplish as a journalist?
Students—students who later became managing editors of major newspapers and national network TV reporters—responded with answers like, “I want to win a Pulitzer Prize,” or “I want to expose the ills of society.”
Brooks listened politely and eventually told the class his answer: “You’re here to sell newspapers.”
“That lesson has always stuck with me—that you can write the best, most-moving feature story, or take the best, most-moving photograph or video, or write the most clever headline, but it gets down to this: It’s only that if no one buys it or sees it. Yes, it’s paramount to be right and fair, but the bottom line is that it has to be wanted by someone,” Meyerhoff said.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in journalism, Meyerhoff did not go to graduate school. His family situation left him with little choice but to enter the workforce quickly, and he was eager to be done studying and start working.
Meyerhoff wishes he had gone back to graduate school about ten years after he finished his undergraduate degree.
“The industry has changed so aggressively and significantly – with new mediums, new news-reporting tactics and deliveries – that that delay in learning would have given me tools to compete for jobs with those industry updates,” he said.
Meyerhoff regrets not going to graduate school because as the publishing industry waned, jobs were cut, people had to redefine their careers, and one of the online-screening job questions was whether a person had a graduate degree.
“I know I was not considered for positions because I didn’t have that extra degree, even though my experience more than made up for that extra book knowledge,” he said.
Meyerhoff’s experience spans various forms of publishing, including newspapers, books, magazines, digital content, blogging and social media. Throughout his career, he has sought to connect with readers through these various forms of media.
He first worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for seven years as a news editor, deputy sports editor and sports copy editor.
Meyerhoff then spent almost 11 years as the editorial director and executive editor of The Sporting News, a print sports magazine. During his time at The Sporting News, he was awarded the Times Mirror Chairman’s Award in 1999 for success of book publishing project Celebrating 70!
Meyerhoff relayed a story about his editing experiences at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Sporting News that encapsulates his passion for passionate journalism.
He worked with sports columnist Dave Kindred for years, assigning and editing his columns and a book. Kindred is accomplished in his career; he has written for The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Golf Magazine and The Sporting News, published multiple books, and covered sporting events all over the world.
Kindred is now retired and lives in a small town in Illinois. He has taken his passion for writing to a girls’ high school basketball team in his hometown, the Morton Lady Potters.
“Now, Dave has interviewed and written about NBA and college basketball superstars, but now he’s sitting in small-town Illinois gyms, with creaky stands and creaky floors and writing about high school girls playing basketball,” Meyerhoff said. “The stories he tells are not about wins and losses. The stories he tells makes me want to root for these kids. The stories he tells makes me happy when they win, sad when they lose. The stories he tells makes me happy when I hear one signed a Division I scholarship to play in Florida next week.”
For Meyerhoff, the story of Kindred writing about high school basketball illustrates the importance of passionate journalism and writing, no matter the subject or form.
“That is my favorite area of publishing: writing with passion and heart,” Meyerhoff said. “Writing the long form where it’s not about telling me what to think or do, but showing me, inspiring me and letting me tell myself what to think or do.”
After working in newspaper, magazine and book publishing, Meyerhoff transitioned to managerial roles that involved working with different media forms, including online content.
He was the manager of publisher relations, product merchandising and category manager at HDA Inc., a distributor and publisher based in St. Louis County, for nine years until the company went out of business in 2014. Meyerhoff managed relationships with book publishers, distributors, and vendors and also edited and maintained the company’s Publisher Connection website.
He then worked as the national account manager at American Book Company for one year before he started his current job in April 2015.
Meyerhoff is the manager of content strategy at Concordia Publishing House (CPH), the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the world’s largest Lutheran publishing house.
He approaches the position as a new journalism challenge for him as he tries to find ways to bring passion and heart to the marketing content that CPH provides to people and to make people want to take the next step with a CPH product.
“I think the most challenging part of my job is this evolution of message dissemination that needs to be shorter and quicker,” Meyerhoff said. “I like long-form writing—telling a story that takes a reader on the journey, marinates with the reader and envelopes the reader.”
Meyerhoff said the biggest challenge of being an editor is that the editor’s role is bypassed or discounted in the direct-to-platform publishing as social media allows anyone to publish anything, even if it wrong.
“Editors used to be filters, a let’s-hold-on-for-a-second check to make sure the information is correct and fair before it’s published as truth,” he said.
Meyerhoff is concerned that as social media becomes the primary source of news for many people and provides people with more outlets for people to be the first with a story, being first with a story is taking precedence over being right.
“Social media, to me, is one big rumor mill, full of small and large mistakes that are forgiven and overlooked and no one polices, apologizes or is penalized for it,” he said.
He said being first was always important—journalists before his time talked about “getting the scoop”—but until recently, being first never meant sacrificing having the information right. Finding the balance between publishing journalistically sound material and publishing it quickly is the biggest challenge for young journalists, Meyerhoff said.
Despite the prominence of social media and the ability to be connected to work 24/7, Meyerhoff tries to separate his career from his personal time. He pointed to the precedent his first boss, Lefty, set for him.
“When Lefty finished his work at night, he put his stuff away, pushed his chair in, got his keys and walked out. He didn’t take [anything with him]. Most everyone else would be loading their briefcases with files and things to work on when they were home. (This was before laptops). Lefty didn’t do that; work was for working, home was for home,” Meyerhoff said. “I’ve tried to live that way in my career, and that’s what I expect from folks who work for me.”
Meyerhoff said it will be harder for the upcoming generation of editors because they will have bosses who had bosses who expected them to be plugged in 24/7 and will expect their employees to be available all the time.
“My advice is to be clear with them as far as you can take it: when I’m home, I’m home, and I’ll deal with emergencies as needed. When I’m at work, I work,” Meyerhoff said.
Meyerhoff also advised young editors to be flexible and adaptable when working with writers.
“Editors need to learn to be collaborate with writers, letting the writers exercise their voice and personality,” he said. “A good editor makes the writer look better, and accomplish what that writer sets out to do in the piece.”
He warned up-and-coming editors against over-editing.
“I think one of the most difficult things young editors need to learn is that sometimes good editing means you don’t change a thing,” Meyerhoff said. “So many editors I’ve seen feel like they have to change a word, change the structure of a sentence and follow the stylebooks out the door when doing so completely changes the writer’s intent and tone.”