Shawn ShinnemanJune 12, 2018
Shawn Shinneman is a senior editor at D CEO, a business magazine in Dallas under the D Magazine umbrella. He left Truman State for the University of Missouri, and in 2016, he graduated with a Masters degree in magazine writing. He’s covered cities and schools for newspapers, written about tech for a business journal, and today focuses on D CEO’s daily healthcare coverage. He has published stories on elderly killers, compensation for exonerees, and a brain procedure once tagged as “the most futuristic medical treatment ever imagined.” He’ll be turning 30 this year—in lieu of flowers, please follow him on Twitter.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
I graduated in 2011 with a concentration in journalism.
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I wrote and edited in various capacities at The Index and Detours, including spending my senior year as Detours’ managing editor. I also did a couple of internships: one at KQ2 in my hometown St. Joseph, MO, and the other at the Northwest Herald in the suburbs of Chicago. Oh, and I was in a fraternity.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I did, at Mizzou. I’d been out of college for close to three years and already watched several of my newspaper reporter colleagues leave for the *ahem* greener pastures of the PR world. I still loved journalism, but couldn’t envision getting where I wanted to go on the trajectory I was on. So, I made the decision to reinvest in myself and to seek a graduate degree tailored to the magazine world. I also wanted those Mizzou Mafia contacts.
The funny thing about that: When I got my first job out of grad school, down here in Dallas and at a company of about 20 employees, none of them were Mizzou grads. Three of them were Truman State grads (editor’s note: Woot! Woot!). That’s not to say I would’ve gotten the job prior to my grad school experience—I wouldn’t have—but I don’t underestimate the role played by my Bulldog roots.
What was your first job after graduation?
I took an unpaid internship at a travel magazine in Orlando; got the offer, if you can call it that, on my first day back home, and after spending a night in my childhood room took off the next day. After that, I moved to a tiny newspaper in Portland, IN—people who live in Indiana don’t even know that Portland, IN exists—before something eventually opened up at the Northwest Herald. It was an adventure, but that’s how it should be starting out.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I’m a senior editor at D CEO, a business magazine in Dallas. I write about healthcare on a daily basis, run our D CEO Healthcare site, and write and edit all sorts of business-related content for the monthly magazine.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
The COMM part is obvious. Truman is where I learned to do journalism, both inside the classroom and within the student media center. The liberal arts side has been great, although a little less tangible—but anyone who writes for a living understands the importance of a broad base of knowledge.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I thought Publication Design was a drag at first. I think that was already changing by the end of the semester, but either way, I was definitely grateful that I had those skills when I got out into the working world and was asked to put them to use. At publications the size I started out at, reporters are also designers, photographers, editors, etc.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
I’d say it was putting together two magazines start-to-finish as the managing editor of Detours—working with all the staffers and under the guidance of our super talented Editor Stephanie Hall. Putting together a magazine is a long friggin’ process, and those marathon weekend copy editing sessions could just about break you. I’m really proud of the two finished products we delivered and I learned a ton about what it takes to make a magazine.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
The students around you are generally well-adjusted and have their heads screwed on straight, and your professors are passionate and down-to-earth. There’s a lot to be said for all the face time you have access to with profs at Truman.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
For journalism students—work in student media. There’s no way to learn how to be a journalist except to just start doing it, and there’s no way to convince future employers that you know how to be a journalist except to show them clips and/or impressive lines on your resume that prove you’ve already started.
Seriously. Do it. Take a C in your religious theory class if you have to prioritize it that way. Just make sure you leave school with tons of great media experience and clips.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
See above, for starters. I’d also encourage people to keep learning and expanding their skill set—a great resource that I lucked into during grad school is Investigative Reporters and Editors and its sister organization, the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting. But there are lots of other resources in the form of conferences, podcasts, blogs, journals, etc., for developing journalists.
And the greatest trick of them all, which fits in that same category—learn by reaching out to journalists you admire and asking them about their work. They will almost certainly respond and be happy to discuss how they dug out that interesting anecdote you’re wondering about, how they got their hands on those documents that propped up the story, or why they made the writing decisions they made. Those acts end up having the effect of networking—you’ll impress these impressive people with your genuine interest and enthusiasm—but that’s just a nice bonus.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Pancake City, obviously.
Also, just being within a one-mile radius of just about all my favorite people.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
Finger lickin’ good. Is that one taken? (editor’s note: Our lawyers have confirmed that, yes, that one is taken)
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
I’d want to teach a class on investigative reporting or writing nonfiction narrative. And I’d love to do either. Can I, please?
If you would like to hear more of Shawn’s story, you can follow him on Twitter (and make him feel younger at the same time).