Alumni Perspective: Scott Bernard Nelson

Graduate, 1994
Hometown: Sherwood, OR

What were your majors and/or minors?

Mass communication and political science double major. I wanted to write for one of the newsweeklies -- Time, Newsweek or US News & World Report -- so I figured I should learn both about journalism and politics.

What is your hometown? Where are you living now?

Originally from Reedsport, Ore., now living in Sherwood. We lived on the eastern seaboard (DC, Tampa and Boston) for 10 years, but are happy to be back in Oregon.

Where are you working now?

The Oregonian as Online Enterprise Editor.

How did your mass communication major/Linfield education prepare you for this position?

My Linfield experience overall -- including the mass communication courses and the work on The Linfield Review and at KSLC -- allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. The small-school environment made sure I was in close contact with professors and other students on a regular basis during a time in which I was growing up and finding myself and my future direction.

An upper-division news management seminar I took with Prof. Dave Gilbert late in my career at Linfield then pushed me in an entirely unexpected direction -- toward business. I later went on to get an MBA, and that focus has had a deep impact on my career ever since.

What are the tasks of your position?

Depends on the day of the week. A newsroom is never a predictable place, so what I do from day to day is all over the map. But for the past couple of years, I have been our lead newsroom manager in charge of new-revenue initiatives. So from Amazon Kindle to e-editions to an online store to a new Webcasting studio to watermarking images and the iPad, I've had my hands in a number of interesting new projects. More recently, I've also gone back into editing in a bigger way -- working with the business reporters and helping to put out the daily and Sunday business section. With fewer people in the room, we all have to juggle more tasks.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The unpredictability. And being at the center of the universe when something really big is going down. I was in Lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11, in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, in Iraq during the invasion of 2003. Those experiences make me miss being a reporter, but the adrenaline level is also high when you're the editor in charge of a big, breaking story. I still love that.

These days, I also get a big charge out of making new realizations about where the future of the business is headed. Those "wow" moments, when you read something that suddenly snaps a portion of the future image into focus. Never enough epiphanies, of course, but they're wonderful when they come.

Any advice for prospective students?

Be flexible, take a wide variety of courses and have a great time. College is supposed to be fun. Focus on the things you need to focus on, and take your work seriously. But don't assume you know how the work will translate into real-life experiences. You don't. Life happens at its own pace and of its own accord, and you're just along for the ride some of the time. Don't fight it.

That, and do internships every opportunity you have. Every summer, do an internship. During your breaks, if you can, do internships. It looks good on a resume, and it will help you figure out what you really want to do with your life.

Why did you decide to become a mass communication major?

I loved journalism from early in my high school career. I loved the prospect of being where other people weren't, and experiencing interesting events first-hand. And I loved the thought of writing history's first draft, and doing something that was important.

That said, I considered mass communication a great foundation for the career I imagined. It provided the technical and philosophical basis I needed to go out into the world and be a competent professional. But I also felt like I wanted to be an expert in a specific subject matter, and took a flyer on political science. Ultimately, I loved that, too. Even thought it turns out I didn't spend my career in political reporting, I'm still happy with the decisions I made at 18. They worked out relatively well, I think.

Did you hold any jobs or internships during your college career related to the major? What were they, and how did you get them?

I worked two summers at Northwest Regional Magazines, one at Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine and one in Sen. Mark Hatfield's office in Washington, DC. Closer to home, I got a gig as a part-time sports clerk during the school year at the McMinnville News-Register.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I remain thankful to a lot of people -- professors, fellow students, administrators and my parents -- for making my Linfield experience possible. To this day, many of our friends are old friends from the Linfield days. In fact, I guess you could say we're a true Linfield family. My grandfather went to the college for two years in the early 1930s, before the depression hit his parents and forced him to drop out. My mother later went to Linfield through the adult-degree program. And my high school girlfriend went to Linfield with me, graduated with me and shortly afterward married me. Sixteen years later, we're still pretty happy about that.