Bob Heisse is finishing his second month as executive editor of The State Journal-Register and sj-r.com. The Penn State University journalism graduate came to Springfield, Ill., after serving as executive editor of the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.
Heisse and his staff at the Centre Daily Times were at the center of the news universe late last year when the Sandusky/Penn State child sex abuse scandal broke. The paper won the President’s Award from McClatchy for the coverage.
Heisse has worked at three previous newspapers as a reporter, copy editor, copy desk chief and city editor before becoming executive editor. In recent years he has been involved in journalism organizations in Pennsylvania and nationally with the Associated Press Media Editors. He is the current president of APME, which offers the industry leading NewsTrain program.
GHNewsroom.com recently asked Heisse to take part in a Q&A and discovered that even though the East Coast native finds himself in the Midwest, he still is a Phillies fan and still hasn't tried Springfield's most famous food item: the horseshoe.
Q: What do you like most about The State Journal-Register now that you have been executive editor of the newspaper and website for the past two months?
A: The State Journal-Register has an outstanding staff, many with local ties, working together to produce a fine newspaper and bustling web site. I’m enjoying working with everyone, meeting people in the community and living in Springfield. State capital news matters to everyone in Illinois, and we’re in a fine position to bring awareness to top issues for readers at all of our papers in the state.
Q: What drives you to succeed on a professional level?
A: Ours is a great career, one that makes a difference in people’s lives. We help readers be aware of what’s happening and invite them to participate. As we change we must stay strong, because what we do is as important as ever to our readers. I want to help lead the change, as we grow readership in new ways.
Q: What interests do you have outside of the newsroom?
A: Sports and travel. I’m a Phillies fan and love baseball and football, but also enjoy rodeo and bull riding. I’ll enjoy exploring the Midwest, a new area of the country for me and closer to my niece and family in Denver.
Q: What is the one thing that has surprised, shocked or amused you about Springfield, Ill.?
A: The first thing everyone asks is whether I’ve tried a horseshoe. If not a horseshoe, a ponyshoe. They ask like no other area has such a high cholesterol favorite food. I answer that Philly has the cheesesteak and Pittsburgh the Primanti Brothers’ sandwich, so I’m used to it. I’ll have a horseshoe soon, when nobody asks.
Q: What is the best advice you have received in terms of managing a newsroom staff?
A: The best ideas come from the staff, and the staff has to have room to do its best work. This was conveyed early and has served me well over the years, particularly during the Sandusky scandal when my young staff in State College had the confidence and skill to branch out in every direction to cover the biggest story they’ll get.