Reporting to editing?

May 5, 2004
Category: Uncategorized

Q: I’m wrapping up my first year at a 40,000-circulation daily.  I spent a couple years in college copy editing, writing and editing the opinion section for the school paper. When I interviewed for my current job, I was given the option of reporting or copy editing.I knew that I was better at editing and that I enjoyed it far more, so I picked writing, hoping to work on my skills and get a better understanding of the perspectives of people being edited.

Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve decided that I’ve had about enough and would like to return to editing.  Unfortunately, my paper’s desk is full, and the most senior copy editor has been there for less time than me, so I don’t see any positions opening up too soon.

My question, then, is how to go about finding a job editing.  It seems that all the smaller and mid-size papers focus as much–if not more–on page design than on making stories readable and accurate. We had the luxury of employing page designers and copy editors at the school paper, so I really have no design clips to show.

I’ve set up a Web page with my clips and resume, and I’ve just started some volunteer editing for an online magazine, but I question whether this is going to be sufficient to land me a job anywhere large enough that it won’t look like a red flag.

Two questions: Should I include volunteer, very part-time editing on my résumé, and what suggestions can you make for a writer who wants to cross over to a copy desk?

Brian

A: This may be easier than it seems. It is typically easier to move from reporting to editing as editors are far more difficult to find.

Your impression that most editors want copy editors with design or pagination skills squares with mine.

I’d get some practice on paginating. Begin at your present paper with some observation, and then try to offer yourself to take days when the desk is short-handed to help out. With summer vacations coming, you may get some opportunities soon.

Just as copy editors are hard to find, a staffing shortage on the copy desk seems to be more important to fill than a missing shift on the reporting desks.

Your voluntary editing for an on-line magazine and your volunteer editing show good intentions, but I doubt whether they will give you enough practice to become proficient. I’d try to get at the design opportunities at your own paper, and keep looking for editing-only jobs at other newspapers.

By the way, I think it was smart of you to choose reporting as a way to make you a stronger editor. It will make you better in the long run.

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