Editing skills prove valuable in all kinds of jobs

December 12, 2017 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:

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Categories: Editor Profiles Tags: ,

Vincent Tuss’ journey to becoming an editor started with an internship

December 12, 2017 Leave a comment

by Monica Uzpen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

International relations isn’t a traditional major for journalists, but don’t tell Vincent Tuss that.

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Vincent Tuss, night homepage producer at the Star Tribune

Vincent Tuss, night homepage producer at the Star Tribune and professional copy editor, said international relations is all about helping people connect with and understand each other, which is a big part of what journalists do.

Throughout his career, he has been doing just that.

Tuss received his bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in 1994. Afterwards, he won the Dow Jones News Fund internship, worked as a copy editor for many publications, joined ACES: the Society for Editing and finally landed a job at the Star Tribune. But he was interested in journalism far before crossing his graduation stage.

“I was thinking about doing it in high school, but the timing didn’t work out,” Tuss said.

His interest came from reading The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, his hometown papers, which Tuss said were big and vibrant with lots of personality. It would take him until his senior year in college to act on this interest and join his college paper.

After that the rest is history. Literally history.

After he graduated, the Cold War made jobs in international relations hard to get, and Tuss knew he had what it took to be a journalist, so he accepted a Dow Jones internship, which places students in internships across the country after they take a highly competitive editing test.

That internship was like a two-week boot camp. Taught by a former Marine and journalism professor, the program had Tuss taking spelling and geography tests too difficult to pass.

“The idea was not so much that you had to learn everything, but to make you realize what you didn’t know, which is a lot.”

After the internship, Tuss pursued a career in sports journalism, which he always had a passion for. He started out covering women’s soccer and eventually worked his way up to men’s basketball, but soon realized everyone wanted to do sports and that there was little room in that industry. That’s when he realized he’d be great at editing.

“The more I did it, the more I liked it, the more I thought I was good at it.”

Now, he works as a night homepage producer at the Star Tribune, using all the experience he gained from editing. The biggest challenge? Trying to fill in the gap of what can make a story and what can’t.

And of course, trying to get everyone on the same page to fill that gap.

Tuss said that it’s especially difficult at night because the discussion of what to put in and leave out of the paper already happened. But Tuss also understands the importance of working with other people and communication.

“As much as we like to put a name on a story, it’s all a cooperative effort.”

The culture of his workplace is shifting to help make communication easier. The layout of his office, which he called The Hub, has changed to make the workplace more collaborative. Small innovations like this are just the tip of the iceberg in a changing field like journalism.

To keep up with the changes, Tuss recommends that aspiring journalists stay curious. Keep learning because you don’t know where the industry will be in two years, let alone 10.

But you don’t just have to look to the future to improve your skills. Tuss said that he wished he focussed more on writing, as well as other basic skills.

“You’re a better editor if you’re a writer and you’re a better writer if you’re an editor.”

Freelance editor finds editing skills still matter after newsroom

December 12, 2017 Leave a comment

By Brandon Thomas
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Mark Allen, a newsroom veteran of over 20 years, is a freelance copyeditor.

Since the Great Recession, newspapers have cut jobs dramatically, forcing editors like Mark Allen to find new venues for their skills.

Allen started working in journalism when he was in high school as a reporter for the student newspaper. After high school, he continued as a reporter for a small time, but found employers valued his ability to edit others.

For more than 20 years, he worked for various news organizations until cutbacks led him into freelance work.

Journalism is far from what it was 20 years ago, but Allen still misses the fast-paced atmosphere around the copy desk.

“The most fun I get as a freelance copy editor is when it’s more of a journalistic thing, like a blog for a website,” Allen said. “I can apply those skills that I used as a journalist.”

Allen said all copy editing basically has the same goal, and that is to ensure that the story makes sense and is free of grammatical errors. It is the editor’s job to make the writer sound credible.

Allen’s experience as a reporter has helped him as an editor. Often editors are focused more on the reader, while reporters focus more on composition.

“When I was a copy editor, I wasn’t really thinking about the feelings of the writer so much,” Allen said. “I care that the reader may have questions, and are we answering those questions … the intent of what has been written is the result of what’s read.”

As a freelancer, Allen has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ohio State University, The Knight Foundation as well as the Center for Transitional Justice.

He also teaches at University of California San Diego Extension in advanced copy editing. That allows him to teach editing skills to a variety of people from all over the world.

Allen said he’s learned different  perspectives from foreign students.

“English has become the lingua franca that everybody uses in business throughout the world,” he said. “People want to be able to edit in English because there is a demand for that.”

Allen was the first freelance editor to hold a seat on the board of ACES: The Society for Editing, which is an indication of the changing state of news media.

“When I was laid off, the first thing I wanted to do was to sign up for the ACES national conference,” Allen said. “As I was launching a freelance career, I knew that would be a good resource and I wanted to be with other people in the field that were going through the same thing.”

Allen said that the biggest group of people in ACES now are freelance editors, with around a quarter of members working in actual news media.

Editing is important in a variety of fields and on a variety of platforms. With more editors looking for work, non-traditional news outlets can find former newspapereditors to provide that work. Websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy are seeing a need to put out more refined content, and editors help enforce that.

Allen reaches out to others through his blog, which keeps up with the changes in AP style, as well as a venue for his compilations of mnemonic devices, which help people to remember common grammatical errors.

Another way that Allen stays connected to the news world is through Twitter. It started as a way to remain relevant as a copy editor and to reach a wider audience. Allen began posting editing tips, and a lot of people appreciated that he was doing that.

“So much of what’s great about Twitter is what you can learn from other people,” Allen said.

He started following people he thought were interesting, and soon it turned into something much like co-workers hanging around the copy desk of a newsroom. Soon he started following linguists and lexicographers, which has helped him learn new things and expand his craft.

“It turns into this fantastic conversation where you have your co-workers online,” Allen said. “You can talk about changes in the language and editing issues. You can talk to people that are beyond what you are used to, and still provide a service for those that are looking for it.”

The vast landscape that journalism exists in is constantly changing. How students prepare for those changes is hard to gauge. Sometimes the role a student picks up after graduation is not what the student had planned.

“One thing that I realized when I was young, was that having a journalism degree, having the ability to write … those skills are so transferable and so useful in so many situations,” Allen said. “One piece of advice is to look broadly at how those skills can be used to the jobs that are available. If you are a good editor, there is going to be a place for you.”

Project manager Jill Rogers turns her passion into a career

December 11, 2017 1 comment

By Kristen Seidl
University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Most people don’t equate market research with editing, but for Jill Rogers the two go hand-in-hand.

Rogers is the director of project management at True North Market Insights, a small market research company based near Lawrence, Kansas, where she edits documents for clients daily.

Jill Rogers, director of project management at True North Market Insights. (Courtesy of  True North Market Insights.)

Even in college, Rogers realized that she wanted a career in market research, but didn’t want anything to do with business.

“The business classes were boring me,” Rogers said in a phone interview.

Rogers came into college in 1986 as a business major. Like most students, she didn’t know what she wanted to do after graduation. She figured a business major would guarantee her some kind of job.

After her freshman year, she decided that if she was bored in her business classes, then she would be bored in her career after she graduated. She knew that she wanted more than that in life.

She had always liked advertising and marketing, and over the summers she would work as an interviewer, calling people and administering surveys. When she went back to school at the beginning of her sophomore year, she switched her major over to advertising in the journalism college.

Rogers took a marketing class that year and fell in love with the advertising part of it. She knew that the editing part was just as crucial so that the clients she worked with over the summers wouldn’t find any mistakes in her work. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 1990 with a degree in journalism and an emphasis in advertising.

A typical day in Roger’s job consists of a couple of conference calls and lots of computer work. She works with several PowerPoint and Excel documents a day, reviewing them for grammar and style errors before sending them out to the company’s clients.

“I’m living in PowerPoint and living in Excel, and really paying attention to detail so that you don’t have one thing wrong in a document or a report that’s going to be going to a client,” she said.

As it says in True North’s profile of her, it is her “job to guard the quality of the data at every stage and to ensure that results are delivered when promised.”

She talked about how she liked the variety of the projects that the company works on. There are a lot of different projects that she is working on at any given time. If there’s something that she didn’t necessarily like doing, she said, it would go away in a certain amount of time.

One of the challenges she faces is that while there is a variety in what kind of projects the company is working on, her job can be pretty monotonous. Rogers is always doing a lot of computer work. She said that doing the same thing day in and day out can get repetitive.

When asked what kind of advice she would give to someone in college looking for a job after graduation, she had a simple answer.

“Always be on the lookout for opportunities,” she said. “If you don’t want to get held up in your field, switch jobs every three to four years so that you can get those raises and promotions because staying in the same job for years on end isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

Even as a child, Jay Furst knew he wanted to be a journalist

December 11, 2017 1 comment

Sarah Ruff
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jay Furst knew he wanted to be a journalist since he was a kid and saw newspapers all over his house.

“Journalism is a public service,” he said, “and it’s an honor to be able to report news, meet people and tell their stories and inform and entertain readers.”

Furst has been a journalist for 35 years.

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Jay Furst, executive editor of the Post Bulletin, in Minnesota

In college, he was as an English and creative writing major at Princeton University, graduating in 1979.

Now he’s the executive editor of the Post Bulletin in Rochester, Minnesota. Though Furst is an editor, he said he still hopes to one day write deathless fiction.

With  journalism, Furst said, he likes writing stories that people can relate to.

“I love to write and to bring literary qualities to my daily journalism — creative word choice and approaches to stories,” Furst said. “I write daily columns that are all about personality, voice and humor.”

Furst said his favorite type of news is long-form stories that are issue-oriented. He said he likes when the people are front and center, but the context of the story is clear. He enjoys when plenty of sights and sounds are provided to make the reader feel involved.

Furst started in journalism in high school drawing political cartoons for his hometown paper in Wahpeton, North Dakota.  His interest in politics started with political talks with his parents.

“We were a news-oriented family, three daily papers in the house, lots of politics and debate at dinner,” he said. “My parents were good readers, always talking about news and books.”

Through his career, Furst said he has won some awards. His most recent was an award for an investigative series on panhandling in Rochester and whether it was a scam. He said he believes that awards are nice, but they are not what is most important to him.

Furst said he considers his biggest accomplishments raising a family and being a journalist.

“Hopefully my kids would say I’m a good dad,” he said. “and professionally, that I’ve been able to make a living as a writer and journalist at a time of profound changes in the business.”

After all these years in the business, Furst said he has learned a lot.

His advice for future journalists:

“Journalism is a public service. If you don’t believe that, there are easier and more lucrative ways to make a living.”

 

 

Bunting emphasizes digital transformation, diversity in journalism

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

By Kyiia Rollag
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Omaha, Nebraska, sits in the center of the United States of America.

Most couldn’t point it out on a map, but for LaSharah Bunting, the Knight Foundation director of journalism, it’s home.

Her career in journalism has taken her across the country from The Dallas Morning News to The New York Times to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami.

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LaSharah Bunting, director of journalism of the Knight Foundation. (Photo courtesy of the Knight Foundation.)

At one time, Bunting had considered law school but decided as a journalist she could change the world.

She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2000. She gained additional training through the Maynard Media Academy at Harvard University, Chips Quinn Scholars program and the Dow Jones News Fund editing program.

She joined the Knight Foundation, which gives money strategically and invests in journalism organizations, in 2017.

Before that, Bunting had worked at The New York Times for 14 years, guiding much of the newsroom as a senior editor.

“This opportunity at the Knight Foundation was an opportunity to help the entire industry,” Bunting said. “So, I could help just The New York Times or I could help the entire industry. It’s an amazing privilege to be in this role and do the work that I am doing.”

While at The New York Times, Bunting gathered a plethora of knowledge in digital transformation and as an assignment editor.

Bunting credits The New York Times, where she began to focus on strategic digital transformation, in preparing her for her Knight Foundation position.

Her years as an editor helped too.

As an editor, you have to see even the smallest details – a skill necessary in any job you do.

“Digital was very much my focus during my time as an assignment editor,” Bunting said. “That job requires you to have critical thinking skills. You need to be able to look around corners to anticipate things, you need to both have a high-level view of a situation and then be able to switch to sort of the nitty-gritty.”

In a digital world, for newspapers to be successful, it is crucial that editors are aware of their audience. This means paying attention to trends and likes.

Bunting said that diversity is also important in storytelling. To write interesting, vibrant stories, newsrooms need to reflect their diverse communities.

A McKinsey research study has proven that companies with diverse staffs make more money.

“It’s so crucial to the bottom line and some news organizations are starting to realize that to be able to connect with those different, diverse audiences you need diverse staff to do so,” Bunting said.

Over the past decade, Bunting has acquired a wealth of knowledge to pass down to future journalists.

Bunting recommends reading The New York Times, The New Yorker and other good writing.

Her advice to students: “Get internships. Be experienced. Whether it’s working at the Daily Nebraskan or working at the Lincoln Journal Star.

“Be curious. Always stay curious. Always be aware of what’s going on in the industry.

“Read. Read. Read. Read really great writing. Read what’s out there. Know what good writing is. Know what good reporting is. Doing and reading are the ways to get closer to where you want to be.”

 

Greg Awtry talks the business of journalism

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

By Andrea Neill
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Greg Awtry,
Scottsbluff Star-Herald publisher

Greg Awtry’s career did not start off in journalism.

“I was in business, sales and marketing for most of my life, usually working with the media from the other side,” Awtry said.

This all changed in 2004 when he joined a newspaper as an advertising director. He then moved on to become a publisher the next year.

Awtry is the publisher of Star Herald in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. As a community newspaper publisher, he makes sure he knows what is going on around the community and informs others about it.

“Who will tell their stories, cover their city councils, high school plays, concerts and sports? Who will announce upcoming charity events, sponsor little league teams and make generous donations to the community? Who will publish and save decades of obituaries and wedding announcements?,” Awtry said.

Occasionally, he’s been involved in national news stories too. He was interviewed by CBS News to discuss the cons of the Keystone XL pipeline and why citizens in his area were affected by it.

He takes his job seriously, but knows that sometimes mistakes happen in newsrooms.  “Some embarrassing, like the time the cutline under the photo said ‘Fat man in a red shirt’, which slipped by all our copy editors,” Awtry said.

The error underscored the importance of careful editing.

Being a journalist poses challenges. At times, the newsroom produces stories the consumer doesn’t necessarily want to see. It’s hard to see journalists villainized by others.

“What most people don’t realize is that journalists are people too,” he said. “We are often accused of sensationalizing the news by reporting on tragedies just to sell newspapers. This is false. Journalists covering fatality accidents come back to the office in tears. In short, we cover a lot of stories we wish we never had to: murders, assaults, sexual predators, etc. All these stories have victims and we must be sensitive to them as well as report on the incidents.”

Though Awtry has worked in journalism for 13 years, he stills brings fresh ideas to the newsroom.

His paper has embraced the use of technology in journalism.

“Our digital audience growth and readership is growing at a rate outpacing most newspapers in the industry, and it has been for some time,” he said. “While some papers still resist the Internet, we welcome it, knowing it is our future.”

Journalists are reaching audiences on mobile platforms. And he believes that as social media grows so will the confusion on what real news is versus a  friend’s version of the news.

“Journalists today have a huge responsibility to rise above the fluff, to deliver a message with facts and purpose, and to make a difference by spreading the truth,” he said.

How can journalists make sure that their readers trust them enough to seek news over the fluff?

“Report the truth. Be relentless in seeking out and reporting the truth,” Awtry said. “Some readers may never come around, but to earn the respect and trust, we must report the truth… always.”

Coming from a business career, Awtry looks at numbers and figures of the newsroom along with the stories.

“Without profits, we cease to exist,” he said.

Being economically secure ensures that he can provide everything his staff needs to be the best journalists they can be.

“That includes hiring excellent management, provide proper training and equipment and to fight every day for their rights to access,” Awtry said.

Although he didn’t expect to wind up in journalism, Awtry wants nothing more than to be part of its future.