ELM CREEK, Neb. — Michael Happ published his first newspaper before graduating from college.
Happ, 21, of Palmer, became publisher of the Elm Creek Beacon-Observer in March after he purchased it from Bob and Penni Jensen of Central City.
Happ produced his first edition May 16, a project that kept him up until 3 a.m. putting on the finishing touches. He graduated last weekend from Creighton University with majors in political science and theology.
“It’s been pretty good so far,” Happ said. “A lot of people are glad the paper stayed around.”
Owning a newspaper has been a dream since he was young, Happ said. When he decided to buy the weekly paper, “the 9-year-old version of Michael was excited,” he said.
Happ was on spring break in March when his father called to tell him about the opportunity to buy the Beacon-Observer. He called the Jensens to look at the office in Elm Creek that day.
“I was excited,” he said. “I could see myself sitting in this great big desk.”
Happ doesn’t have much experience in journalism. He wrote for his local paper throughout junior high and worked in the communications office for Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle during college.
“I tried to talk myself out of it, but if it’s my dream, I better go for it,” he said. “I was standing at Ninth and Harney in Omaha when I made the offer. It was pretty intense.”
The Jensens agreed to keep publishing the paper until Happ finished college in May. Happ owns the Beacon-Observer building and built an apartment for himself in the back room where the printing press used to be.
He said he hopes to introduce online coverage once things have slowed down, and he plans to redesign the Beacon-Observer when he’s more familiar with the design software.
He also plans to widen the scope of the newspaper’s coverage, hoping to reach out to Loomis, Pleasanton and other area communities.
Happ said he’s fond of small towns, having grown up in one, and Elm Creek has been welcoming.
“Everyone wants to talk and I have to keep apologizing to them because the phone keeps ringing,” he said.