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The frustrations of an inexperienced editor

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by forever_town, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I've been in my current gig as managing editor of a weekly newspaper since May of 2006. Prior to that time, I worked an entry level position in a company that was only peripherally in journalism. And even the periphery was something you might need a lawyer's eye to decipher where it fits.

    My previous journalism experiences beyond the college newsroom were a year and a half covering soccer for a fan Web site and roughly seven months as a reporter for a trade publication. Toward the end of that seven months, I developed some decent skills as a copy editor. However, I hardly have the level of experience you'd want for a job that includes having to guide young reporters, both full-time and freelance.

    Anyway, there are times when self-doubt about my lack of experience just slams into me like Roy Williams barreling into a wide receiver unfortunate enough to go across the middle in Texas Stadium. I read copy and wonder if my lack of experience causes me to miss little, basic things that an editor with 30 years in the business and a degree in journalism can catch in his sleep. I look at a new, inexperienced writer I've taken on so he or she can get clips for class and I wonder if I'm the right editor to do more than provide an outlet to publish clips.

    Granted, I think I've gotten a little bit better about seeing the big picture as well as the details. But I still wonder much of the time if I'm really helping the people I'm trying to mentor go in the right direction.
  2. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    All you can do is the best you can.
  3. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    This is where you're wrong. Everyone knows Roy Williams can't cover anybody.

    Seriously, more to your point, all you can do is your best. And solicit as much advice as you can get.
  4. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    You'll see yourself progress with time. Five years from now, you'll be very proud of the clips you put out, but when you look back in the archives, you'll shudder at how you wrote—the tone, the pace, the leads. Stick with it, give it time. You will be surprised how much better you'll be with each passing year of experience. Stick with it.
  5. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member


    The best advice I can give is be decisive. There is nothing worse than someone who lacks the stones to make a decision. If it turns out to be wrong, admit it and learn. That's being accountable.

    I'd rather my boss be wrong than chicken.
  6. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    what baron said.

    you can't give what you don't have, and some people seem to be most critical of themselves and not others. lighten up on yourself.
  7. FT,
    I can definitely relate to your situation. I've been an associate editor at a trade magazine for four months and wonder at times what the hell I am doing. Apparently I am doing well because of the positive feedback I've been getting, but there are times when you question your decisions, but you have to make them with conviction. Like others have said, if you make a mistake, just learn from it. And ask for feedback from everyone — reporters, editors, those higher on the ladder. Soak it all in and apply it. And do the best you can.
  8. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I've been doing this for 19 years, still don't know what the hell I'm doing.
    Am I at times overwhelmed? Sure. Do I think at times I've failed or have been set up to fail? Absolutely.
    But, perhaps I could help in some small ways.
    ***Learn from your mistakes. But, more importantly, learn from your successes. Build on them. There will always be people pointing out the negative or something you've done wrong. Take a minute, take a couple deep breaths, and "hold the good."
    ***If you're a line editor, read. Read well-edited publications. Not overly-written publications, well-written, edited publications. Think critical(ly). Step away from grammer and punctuation at some point and think "big picture." Is this piece missing a chronological event? A voice? A contrarian voice? Are statements of fact not cited? Etc.
    ***If you're a newsroom manager. Walk. Get up. Get out from your desk. Say hello. And don't just say hello. Mean it.
    ***Prepare. Budget and prepare. Spend some time on the frontend. It saves heartache and angst on the backend.
    ***Find time for journalism. Not morning meetings. Not penciling the section full of previews and gamers and opinion. Find a project. Find an eager journalist. You know who he/she is, and work. It doesn't have to be done this month or next. This is our foundation, and we often lose sight.
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