Meredith managing editor is a master juggler
By Morgan Horton
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Doug Kouma had always been more Bill Nye than Jim Bellows in high school.
If he had pursued his science and math skills, Meredith Corp. would be one down a managing editor and its Special Interest Media would be in desperate need of a master juggler. After all, Kouma and his team produce 115 publications every year.
Kouma has been editing at Meredith for 14 years now, climbing the career ladder rung by rung. Kouma started at Meredith as an associate copy editor. As he worked his way up, Kouma’s job description became less of an editor and more of a self-proclaimed “administrative manager of an editorial group.”
His job duties now are almost as much of a mouthful as the title.
Not only does Kouma manage Special Interest Media for Meredith, but he also handles budgeting, scheduling and tracking. Although a magazine-editing job is 9 to 5, it’s not cushy, Kouma assures.
“A group like this gets two to three publications out of the door … each week,” Kouma said. “We try to touch everything at least four times.”
The real challenge for Kouma is getting each story through his editing group in a timely manner and still giving it the attention it deserves. The editing process must work in harmony like a synchronized swimming team.
A lead copy editor will do the first edit of a piece. This edit is in-depth and hands-on. Next, a second editor reads the piece and sends it off to the content editor. From there, the art department gives it the magazine layout. One more edit follows to catch any final mistakes, and the finely combed story is ready to be published.
“The most important role of an editor is to be an advocate for readers,” Kouma said. “You need someone who can look at the big picture.”
Many times, the big picture for a story is just a snapshot in the photo album of interests that Kouma’s group handles. Specialty publications that fall under the Better Homes & Gardens (BH&G) umbrella touch a wide range of topics. Editors must have some understanding of flower species, cheese specifications and wine details. Kouma and his team use many resources to ensure every term is accurate.
Their offices are stocked with books with titles like “Wine Lovers’ Companion,” “Food Lovers’ Companion” and entire books that outline the trademarked names of roses. In addition to these resources, BH&G has its own stylebook that Kouma works closely with. The style is a hybrid of Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook, mixed with a little BH&G personality.
Before Kouma began working at Meredith, he earned his bachelor’s of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After a Dow Jones News Fund internship at the Boston Globe, he became the editor-in-chief of the Daily Nebraskan his senior year.
After graduation, Kouma moved to Des Moines as a copy editor at the Des Moines Register. After a little more than two years at the Register, he applied for a copy editing position at Meredith, located just down the road from the newspaper.
“That’s when the language aspect of it really started to set in for me,” Kouma said. “I really started to dig into why we chose the words we choose. Why we choose the style we do. Grammar … all the things copy editors talk about.”
For students looking to follow Kouma’s footsteps, he has a few words of advice. You don’t have to know everything, but you have to ask good questions and be eager to learn.
Kouma said working with BH&G and custom publications on a variety of digital, print and mobile platforms allows for plenty of creativity. The variety of content alone keeps his work fresh and interesting.
“I do enjoy what I do now, but I miss the editorial work and the more creative process,” Kouma said. “Because that’s what we all get in to the business for.”