Editing skills prove valuable in all kinds of jobs

February 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Whatever kind of journalist you aspire to be – reporter, photojournalist, designer, multimedia producer, broadcaster or editor – you’ll need to develop editing skills to succeed.

Editors work for all kinds of organizations on many different platforms (print, broadcast, Web, mobile). The goal of editing is clarity, regardless of platform. Editors help readers navigate through information by distilling messages. Editors work for small and large newspapers, broadcast outlets, magazines, book publishers and newsletters. They hold communication jobs for corporate, academic and nonprofit organizations. Editing skills are valued in public relations and advertising. Regardless of where they work, editors increasingly are responsible for work published on the Web.

Since 2011, beginning editing students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln interviewed editors from a variety of places to ask them about their jobs, their advice for journalism students and their insight into how journalism is changing. Although the editors the students chose worked in many different jobs, many editors offered similar suggestions.

Their advice included: Read all different kinds of writing, master the basics of usage and grammar, get internships and college publication experience, learn the Web and new technologies, and be open-minded about the future.

Click on the links below to read their reports:

Categories: editing, finals Tags: ,

Video editor’s passion led to his job

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

By Will Stott
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Professional careers in editing can begin in a variety of ways, but it’s unlikely that most people in the field today always knew they would end up there. If you ask grade-school children what they want to be when they grow up, you’re more likely to hear “fireman” or “astronaut” than “copy editor.”

Brian Seifferlein, Videography-Editor at NET Nebraska

Brian Seifferlein, Videography-Editor at NET Nebraska. Photo taken by Will Stott

This was the case for Brian Seifferlein. He didn’t have any idea he would end up in a career in editing; it was something that just fell into his lap. In an interview about his life and his career, Seifferlein expressed a different view of editing than we traditionally think about.

Seifferlein is a videography-editor at NET Nebraska. Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) is a statewide network that provides educational public broadcasting through television and radio. Based in Lincoln, Neb., it is the state’s affiliate for PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio). Seifferlein works for NET Nebraska’s television station.

Q: When did you decide you were interested in editing?

 In editing? Well, I guess that has more to do with my TV career in general. I went to school to either be a teacher or a journalist, and the school I went to was pretty well known for both of those, so I thought, “well, I’ll just go there and figure it out.”

My first semester I auditioned for the campus TV station. I was an actor, and I just had a really good time. Then I started writing my own stuff, which kind of led to directing it, which kind of led to putting it all together. So, from there, I got my own show on the campus television station and when you’re putting together these shows, the shooting’s always really fun. But then, you find yourself in an edit suite. We were doing tape-to-tape editing, at 3 o’clock in the morning. And when I was doing it a couple of times I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”

I wasn’t doing it for a grade or anything, and it wasn’t for… It wasn’t for anything, really! I mean it was for the “experience” or whatever, but there was a point at which I was like, “You know, I’m doing this and it kind of sucks being here in the morning, but I really like it, and I’m not even getting paid to do it.” I think that was kind of the point when I realized; shooting and editing, I really like that.

Q: How did you end up at NET? What were some career moves that happened between college and now?

A:  (After college) I moved back home and decided, “Alright, I’m just going to start applying to all these TV stations,” a lot of which were in the local area. One of those was in South Bend, La., and I never heard anything from them. But then, a long time later, I got this call from Augusta, Ga., and apparently the same company that owned the South Bend station owned their station, as well. They called and we did a few phone interviews, and I went there to work for them sight unseen.

I really enjoyed that time of my life, but I found that I really didn’t like TV news. In my opinion, if you tell somebody there was a house-fire or a break in, that isn’t really helping anybody. It’s just gawking. But there were occasional glimpses of what you could really do with the medium that would be helpful. But at the same time, it was just great, because you shot and edited every day. You just perfected the craft. You could really get into a mode where you stopped thinking about the basics. There was a point when I was doing that when there was never any stress on a shoot. I felt like I knew what I was doing every time, and that gave me the freedom to start being more creative. I wasn’t even thinking about the basics anymore. I wanted to leave, though. I wanted to get out there. I started looking all over the country and I found I wanted to get into public TV. Nebraska was the first one I found and got offered a position at.

Q: now that you’re here, what’s your average day like?

A:  When I’m editing a long documentary, I’ll be in an edit suite for maybe two or three months on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day. So, those are what get down to my average days. I work eight to five whether it’s a long project or short project. I get a script from a producer, and I look at that script. From there I try to organize my project on the technology that we use. I divide up the footage and figure out what all footage we have. There’s a lot of methodology for that. If it’s a huge documentary and they’ve shot lots of stuff, I have to figure out where it all is and how to organize it.

After that, I’ll start building scenes. Whatever little scenes are within a five-minute piece or an hour-long piece, I start building those scenes. On an hour-long documentary, you kind of forget about the whole rest of the program while you’re working on this five-minute piece. I build those scenes, which are usually directed a lot of times around music. That’s something that’s changed since I first started here. I used to build the scene with that footage. I’d organize all of the back-and-forth between the narrator and the sound bites, or even just the sound bites. Now, I don’t do that. I get the music right away that kind of drives the scene, and then start working from there.

At some point in there, a producer comes in and we work on it together. Does the scene work? Does the scene flow? We look at whether the piece writes well once it’s up on the screen and whether or not it looks okay. Because, what might have to happen next is the writing might need to change.  There might not be the editing that can save it, if that makes sense.

Q:  If you had to give some advice to people just starting their careers in editing, what would you tell them?

A:  It’s an interesting field, because it’s really driven by technology, and that technology is always changing. So you have to stay on top of the technology. The other thing is, you can’t get hung up on the technology so much that it becomes an excuse for how you create your product. No matter what, you should always be learning.

The other thing, overall, I think is with editing. When you’re doing editing, you kind of have to trust your instincts and really go with them, while still being flexible. But then, you also have to be prepared, be flexible enough, to throw everything you did down the toilet. Just wipe the slate clean and start all over.

So yeah, that’s my advice. I think, it’s a little bit generic, but it boils down to a “be flexible, but follow your instincts,” kind of thing.

Important part of editor’s job is listening to her readers

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

By Sarah Vogel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Working at a small newspaper comes with challenges as well as rewards. After her junior year in college as an education major, Mary Lou Rodgers decided that teaching was not for her. She switched to journalism because she knew that writing was one of her strengths. With a degree in journalism from Creighton University, she did not decide to be an editor. However, an opportunity arose, she tried it out and ended up finding a great fit.

Mary Lou Rodgers, editor of the Douglas County Post-Gazette. Photo credit: Mary Lou Rodgers

Mary Lou Rodgers, editor of the Douglas County Post-Gazette (Photo courtesy of Mary Lou Rodgers)

Rodgers became editor of the Douglas County Post-Gazette in October of 1998 after she had held the assistant editor position at the paper for the previous 12 months. This newspaper covers the towns of Elkhorn, Bennington, Waterloo and Valley, as well as the school districts of Bennington, Douglas County West and Elkhorn and the Mount Michael High School. All are near the city of Omaha.

Planning and publishing a weekly newspaper, as well as sorting through daily emails, are some of Rogers’ day-to-day responsibilities. She also has to look for stories, assign stories, proofread and edit, process photos, write school board stories, plan for special sections and decide what goes on each page of the paper.

Though small, the newspaper’s readership has been growing. The main draw is that the families in the area “see pictures of their kids playing football that would never appear in the World-Herald, for instance, since that paper has so many schools to cover,” Rodgers said in an email interview. “We are able to build some trust with our readers.”

Rodgers said the more personal aspect of her job is “listening to people who call to tell you their story, which is not really a story we can do, but they just need an ear,” she said. “Or listening to a complaint and trying to handle it diplomatically and make a correction.” She said the best part of her job is “I work with some great people, and we all pull together to put out a quality publication.”

The newspaper has a print and an online version. The print version has been published for more than 80 years. It also has all the stories, whereas the online version is just a sampling, containing teasers of a few news and sports stories. The paper usually has 12-16 pages, though sometimes special sections are inserted for more news. The Douglas County Post-Gazette sends out sample papers occasionally, and once new residents find the paper, Rodgers said they usually subscribe.

Social media are beginning to come into play a little more, but because the paper has such a small staff, it’s difficult to monitor social media as much as is required. The Post-Gazette’s Facebook page is up-to-date and contains small blurbs on what will be in the paper.

“It’s interesting every day and different every week,” Rodgers said about her job. “I am never bored – sometimes a little overwhelmed – but never bored.”

Reading between the lines of a copy editor’s story

January 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Cameron Carlow, copy editor for The Omaha World-Herald Sports Department. (Photo courtesy of dataomaha.com)

By Reid Kilmer
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Cameron Carlow is a copy editor for The Omaha World-Herald sports department. As you read the World-Herald sipping your cup of joe, you might not realize all the work that went into making those words clear and accurate. In addition to the reporters and writers are the editors who check for grammar errors and factual mistakes. They also work to catch the eye – and attention – of readers.

Carlow said he is a huge sports fan and loves the fact that as a sports copy editor he gets to read a variety of sports stories every day. Some of the cons about his job are the long, strange hours. He works the night shift, which hurts his social life, and he said he is under constant stress because of deadline pressure.

A grammatical mistake that he said he catches all the time is the misuse of hyphens. Pregame, postgame and nonconference are the three words that constantly get hyphens inserted when they don’t need to. Carlow said he also receives many calls from mothers who complain about their child’s name being misspelled or want their son/daughter to be on the front page.

It wasn’t an easy pathway for Carlow. His career started slowly when he transferred to the University of Nebraska-Omaha after the college he was attending dropped its journalism program. Once he moved back to the metro area, he worked at a gas station where he ran into a Creighton sports writer several times. Through this contact, he made a connection within the Omaha World-Herald and was hired to answer phones on Friday nights while attending college. Two years later, the World-Herald hired him after graduation.

His advice is to get into news outlets early, do the grunt work and never ask for days or weekends off. Carlow’s favorite sport to cover is football. He said there’s never a typical day at his job. Many of his hours are spent editing stories and writing what he hopes are clever headlines. Other days he spends organizing sections of the paper and helps with the online version when he has free time. Not only does he edit, but he also writes his own fantasy football weekly column for the Sunday edition.

Copy editing and sports make up Carlow’s life. He said he enjoys going to work every day and understands his job isn’t for everyone. He wants eager copy editors to know he is more than willing to help get them into the business. You can follow him on Twitter @ccarlow.

Omaha professional doubles as editor to promote sustainable food

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment
Amy Brown

Amy Brown, co-publisher and editor, Edible Omaha (Photo courtesy of Amy Brown)

By Miranda Milovich
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Amy Brown isn’t a typical magazine editor. She studied finance and economics, not journalism, and her full-time job is at an Omaha bank. But her passion is for her magazine, Edible Omaha.

Brown grew up in Iowa and graduated from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She moved to Omaha, working at First National Bank. A few years ago Brown started learning more about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and processed foods.

“I felt like I had been lied to. I didn’t want to feed my family that (GMOs) anymore, and I figured if I wanted to do something about it, then there were probably plenty of other people out there who felt the same way,” Brown said.

She and her friend Lucy Wilson, who also has a background in finance, set out to make a difference. Brown had heard about Edible Communities, a network of more than 80 local food publications across North America. Although she and her business partner Wilson had no journalism background, they started Edible Omaha.

The first issue hit the stands in the spring of 2011 and was the product of many late nights and long weekends. Since Brown didn’t have any formal editing experience, the entire process was a learning experience for her. She said the most difficult part about editing the magazine has been building her own confidence as an editor, something she has been able to do with the help of others.

Some of Brown’s duties at the magazine include sorting through story pitches. The pitches align with the food seasons, further encouraging people to use local food. She coordinates freelance writers and photographers, gives feedback to her writers after they submit a first draft and does the final edit before everything is bundled and shipped to the layout designer. She also edits the online version of the magazine.

Although Brown’s editing duties are done once the content is shipped, her job is far from over. Once the magazine is printed, she and what she calls her “distribution angels” deliver the magazines to seven counties across Iowa and Nebraska. The magazine is funded completely by advertisers and is delivered free to local businesses like grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

In Edible Omaha, you won’t see an ad for a free tire rotation with the purchase of an oil change or an ad for McDonald’s breakfast. The magazine is funded by advertisers who reflect the overall message of Edible Omaha.

Brown said it is important to be able to provide the magazine free to the public so the price of the magazine is not a barrier to the mission of helping readers seek healthier and more environmentally friendly food options.

The magazine is also distributed to No More Empty Pots, an Omaha-based organization that promotes regional and sustainable food security. Brown said she and Wilson are working to distribute copies to parents of children in Head Start programs. They also have partnered with the public library to provide copies to the people there.

“Food is the one thing we all require,” Brown said. “To me, it levels the playing field and is something we all should care about. We have an overabundance of calories, but we are creating a malnourished society. In a lot of countries you have starving people who don’t have enough food. We have too much, but it’s not nourishing our bodies.”

Brown said some characteristics that are important for an editor are flexibility, adaptability, attention to detail, organizational skills and the ability to prioritize. She also said it is important to recognize and reward the people who work on the magazine. She said people who feel appreciated tend to be more positive and willing to put forth their best effort. “We invite our contributors to represent Edible at local dinners, food tastings and community events.”

Edible Omaha pays its freelance writers and photographers, but Brown and Wilson do not receive compensation. “I know we are furthering our goal of building a sustainable food community, and that is rewarding,” Brown said. “Additionally, feedback from readers has been amazing.”

Relevant Magazine editor finds media industry is converging

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

By Veronica Vanderbeek
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jesse Carey, a graduate of Oral Roberts University, now works for Relevant Magazine as a contributing editor. (Photo from relevantmagazine.com)

Jesse Carey, a graduate of Oral Roberts University, now works for Relevant Magazine as a contributing editor. (Photo courtesy of relevantmagazine.com)

When Jesse Carey started college at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.  Media had always appealed to him, so he got involved with the student newspaper and campus radio station.  Carey’s interest in media grew, and he graduated with a degree in mass media with an emphasis in journalism. 

During his senior year, Carey held an internship with Relevant Magazine.  He was also an editor at the school’s newspaper and really liked the process of planning the tone and direction of the paper.  He always enjoyed writing, while editing allowed him to have more of an editorial voice as he planned the paper.

After Carey graduated, Relevant offered him a temporary position in marketing.  He spent a summer on a concert tour promoting books and Relevant Magazine.  Relevant then offered him another marketing position that allowed him to apply as an editor when the job opened up.

Currently, Carey is a contributing editor at Relevant Magazine.

He works from home but meets with managing editor Tyler Huckabee daily via Skype.  He also writes daily and updates the feature pieces in the middle of the web page every morning.  Depending on their publication schedule, he also might work on small features for the print magazine, attend meetings, come up with content ideas or co-host a Relevant podcast.

Feature writing is Carey’s favorite part of the job.  His job consists mainly of day-to-day tasks, but writing print features is a longer process that allows him to invest creatively in the piece.  “I don’t do it every day so it’s sort of a treat to spend more time writing something,” Carey said in a phone interview.

Carey said he would advise college students to “Get involved in everything you can.”  He said students should not worry about making money with their writing but should take every opportunity presented to them.  Carey believes that all kinds media will converge at some point so it is important to have experience in all aspects of journalism.

“You’ll hear writers on broadcasts and podcasts so just get as much experience in every field that you can, whether it’s paid or not,” Carey said.

Carey also encouraged students to be prepared for the learning curve when beginning a job.  “I would say the biggest challenge initially, when I first started, was to realize a lot of the stuff I learned in school wasn’t necessarily applicable because the industry had changed so much.  You’re taught all these rules … but the reality is a lot of the stuff you end up writing today isn’t hard news,” Carey said.

Carey talked about the inverted pyramid style of writing and many other things journalist are taught in school, but said sometimes you just need to focus on writing with a little personality and figure out how much of yourself to put into the story.

Managing editor encourages students not to work for free

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

By Veronica Vanderbeek
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tyler Huckabee, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, now works for Relevant Magazine as a managing editor. (Photo from relevantmagazine.com)

Tyler Huckabee, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, now works for Relevant Magazine as a managing editor. (Photo courtesy of relevantmagazine.com)

Tyler Huckabee always knew he wanted to write.  His dream was to be a freelance writer or journalist, but he never imagined he would be a manager.

Huckabee, a communications graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, found that as you start gaining success in the writing field, you begin getting pulled into editing.  This is exactly what happened to him.

He didn’t have any internships in college but wrote for churches and submitted articles to Relevant Magazine.  After graduation, Relevant contacted Huckabee and asked him to write more for them.  When a senior web editor position opened, Huckabee got it.

Currently, Huckabee works as a managing editor for Relevant Magazine.  His days are spent brainstorming story ideas, finding writers and refining work.  He might also put together a story outline or schedule interviews with bands and actors.

When asked in a phone interview what his favorite part of his job was, Huckabee said that while getting to meet bands and actors is extremely cool, his favorite thing is giving writers a platform for their talents.

“There are so many writers, and I like giving them a shot because it’s a hard industry out there,” Huckabee said.

Writers not only make up the best part of Huckabee’s job; they also make up the hardest. He knows from experience that writers often are not good with deadlines. “There are writers I really like and value, but deadlines aren’t a huge strength of theirs.  We get down to a deadline, and I can’t get ahold of them,” Huckabee said.

Another challenge he found is the industry’s inability to pay writers well.  “It’s very difficult for us to find writers and pay them what they’re worth.  It’s a really hard challenge that no one has cracked yet.”  Online content is given away for free, and print magazine subscriptions are extremely cheap.  This doesn’t make a lot of money for the industry.  “I hope someone can solve that because writing is really important.”

Huckabee has three tips for journalism students: The first is to stay hungry.  Huckabee knows firsthand that in the writing business you will get a lot of rejections, and it will be discouraging.  However, he encourages students to keep sending resumes and pitches.  “It will pay off.”

The second is not to work for free.  Huckabee understands that there are times when you will have to take unpaid internships, but he believes refusing to work for free is a big part of valuing yourself and your work.  He says to ask for compensation, whether it’s monetary, exposure or something valuable for your career.

Lastly, he said, “A lot of people can write really well but not a lot can write and follow through with deadlines.  That will really set you apart from the crowd.”

Huckabee understands the challenges that a college journalist faces during and after college.  He has experienced the job hunt and knows the pressures of attempting to make a living through writing.  “I feel like I fell into this accidentally, but I remember the hardships.”  Huckabee ultimately encourages students to work hard, persevere and continue to refine themselves.

Some of Huckabee’s work can be read on his blog.


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