Knight Center alum turns J-School project into career

Hear Nebraska founders Angie and Andrew Norman

Hear Nebraska founders Angie and Andrew Norman

By Amanda Proscia
Knight Center alum and entrepreneur Andrew Norman (M.A. 2010) recently visited Michigan State University with his wife Angie to discuss their nonprofit music organization that grew out of his master’s project.

They co-founded Hear Nebraska with the vision of making Nebraska a cultural tourism destination by reporting on their home state’s thriving arts and music scene.
“The original vision for the project was simply to cover Nebraskan music statewide all genres in a way that nobody had,” he said. “The idea was to cover it the way celebrities are covered in Hollywood.”
The concept of Hear Nebraska started as an idea scribbled on a cocktail napkin at Lansing’s Unicorn Tavern for Andrew’s master’s project.HN logo, orange transparent
It’s now a multimedia website producing large music events throughout Nebraska.
“When I was trying to figure out my master’s project, one element of consideration was that I wanted to find something that could end up being my career, but we never thought this could happen,” Andrew said. “It was about three years in when we realized this was even a possibility.”
He came to MSU’s J-School for the environmental concentration, serving as editor-in-chief for the Knight Center’s student-run EJ Magazine.  He also was among the first staff writers for Great Lakes Echo – the center’s online publication reporting on environmental issues in the Great Lakes region. The site launched while he was a graduate assistant at the Knight Center.
“The fact that Echo was an online publication was cutting edge at the time,” he said. “We were able to try new things that we would never have been able to do in a magazine – it’s really neat for me to come back to the Knight Center and see Great Lakes Echo is still so strong and relevant.”
Andrew said his time at the Knight Center prepared him for much more than reporting.
“The skills that journalism and the Knight Center build in you and the opportunities they provide that allow you to build these skills are really transcendent to being a reporter – being able to uncover facts and do research and condense it in a way that is compelling to whatever audience you’re talking to – that makes you well-positioned to enter so many different fields and positions.”
Since starting Hear Nebraska, Andrew is most proud of the organization’s Good Living tour, a “part storytelling, part concert” tour of 27 bands performing in nine small Nebraska communities in nine days.
“The fact that we pulled it off is the most exciting part,” he said.
Hear Nebraska does mixes innovative reporting skills with old time values - like downloads AND vinyl.

Hear Nebraska does mixes innovative reporting skills with old time values – like downloads AND vinyl.

For Angie, her favorite moment was a pivotal point in the organization – when they hired their first full-time employee.
“Being able to employ someone besides ourselves full-time was huge for us,” she said.
Hear Nebraska’s growth is continuing. The organization now employs six people, several interns and more than 35 contributors and has won several awards, including the Nebraska Tourism Commission’s “Friend of Tourism” award.
In addition to visiting with Knight Center students for a pizza lunch, the Normans gave a public talk and spoke at several MSU journalism and entrepreneurship classes.