The clock ticks away at the early hours of the morning, each jerky movement of the minute hand counting down to the end of another hour, and with it, the end of time spent at yet another location. A different setting for each hour of the day, and a new perspective on how those measly 24 hours could be spent in 24 places. Maybe a nice dinner at a local restaurant at 8 p.m., or perhaps occupying a comfy coffee house chair at 4 a.m. before many people rise from their beds.
For Lincoln Journal Star columnist Cindy Lange-Kubick, this had been an idea she wanted to write for a while. So, for nearly a month in 2009, she went to 24 different locations in Lincoln that she would want to spend an hour at for every hour of the day. From 12 a.m. to 12 p.m., she wrote one article about each location and the experience she had and dubbed it Lincoln Clockwise, and it ran in her usual column in the Lincoln Journal Star.
“It was something I had on the back burner for some time,” Kubick said. “I really wanted to do it. It had an endless number of opportunities.”
Writing has always been something of an interest, a hobby even, for her, but it took her a while to realize exactly what she wanted. Living in Lincoln all of her life, Kubick’s took multiple paths, all of which she had immense passion and drive for, before finding the one that led to her being a reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star since 1994.
Initially, as someone with a warm heart and loads of compassion for everyone she meets, Kubick’s plan was to go to Southeast Community College for human services, looking to work in special education.
Not soon after, however, her life took an unexpected turn. She got married, had kids and became a stay-at-home mom. As she speaks of her children in both the present and past, you can hear the love and passion in her voice and can almost sense the smile she wears. But, in her early 20s as someone with a love of work, being a stay-at-home mom took a toll on her eventually. Describing it as a “period of winter of discontent or depression,” Kubick knew she wanted to go back to college.
So began her six years as a Husker at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As an untraditional student – being out of the normal age bracket of students – Kubick chose two fields in which she shared equal passion: Journalism and sociology, and in doing so, she found a way to combine the two, eventually becoming a columnist for The Daily Nebraskan, UNL’s student newspaper.
“I was a novice in journalism,” she said, “But I gravitated toward people stories. What makes people do what they do.”
After long nights dedicated to research, papers and various assignments, her application for an internship at the Lincoln Journal Star was turned down. Not yet deterred, however, an editor called her over a part-time position in 1994. This started her longtime position as a reporter.
Being a reporter granted her a lot of opportunities to write about things that piqued her interest. Her beats included restaurants, theater, arts and environment. Then, in 1997, she became a columnist, allowing her to focus on the people of Lincoln whom she found particularly interesting or felt needed a light shined on them.
“Always be observant,” she said. “You have to be able to tell a story, to be able to interview, and know how to listen.”
Some stories she found fun and lighthearted to write about, like her Lincoln Clockwise series, others more serious, adding that the story she wrote about a woman with cancer, a woman she grew to have a deep friendship with, took six months to write. Kubick accompanied her to treatments and spent long nights and days at her side. They became very close during their time spent together. She remembers it as one of the most impactful stories she has written in her two decades of reporting.
“There’s people that situationally you write about and you remember,” Kubick said. “Sometimes you do things that hurt people and those stay with you. The positive and the negative.”
Having written somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 stories, one might think the well of ideas Kubick has has run dry, but that is far from the case. Just from going outside and observing the world around her, a story can be found. Whether it’s about a child celebrating their birthday during a pandemic, not allowed to have friends over and finding a way to still make the day theirs, or a young man who took multiple jobs so he could afford Christmas presents for his siblings while their mom was ill, Kubick writes in a way that highlights humanity in others and in Lincoln.
But, as time moves forward in its never ceasing motion, Kubick knows that her career writing for the Journal Star is nearing its end.
“I am looking forward to not being in journalism forever,” she said. “I’d like to work for a couple more years and then maybe work part-time at a bookstore.”
Imagining a future at a cozy bookstore, settling down to read, a cup of coffee in hand, Kubick is excited to read a newspaper written by the new generation of journalists, saying it would be time for “the youngsters to take over.”
Journalism has held a special place in her heart for so many years. Although the prospect of all the young new journalists fuels that passion even more, the decline of local newspapers is something that worries her.
“Our subscribers are at one fourth what they were,” she said. “And the 24/7 cable news cycle does not always have a point of view. Your community newspapers are bringing you your news. We just try to let you know what’s going on.”
Even with the decline, students and interns continue to seek jobs and experience within the industry, much to her excitement.
“We have interns come in all the time, and I’m so impressed by them. If that’s your heart’s desire, go for it,” she said.
For as long as she has been writing, the importance of journalism, reporters, newscasters and information has been one of the main lessons she has both learned and tried to teach. But most importantly, it’s love for what she does.
“It’s the best job ever,” Kubick said. “We do things that make a difference.”