Editing skills prove valuable in all kinds of jobs

May 3, 2018 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: Editor Profiles Tags: ,

Experience the key to success for two Meredith copy editors

By Camryn Preston
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Age is just a number in the world of copy editing.

Experience is everything.

Despite coming from different generations, two copy editors from Meredith Corp. in Des Moines, Iowa, reached where they are today because of two things: hard work and a love for grammar.

Sheila Mauck is a senior copy editor for Meredith Corp. She works on stories for major-magazine Better Homes and Gardens, digital media, and mastheads for special-interest publications.

Erika Bjorklund is also a senior copy editor for Meredith, where she is a liaison for freelancers in other departments, handles administrative duties, and most notably, is the senior copy editor for The Magnolia Journal.

The difference between them? One has been working at Meredith for over 20 years, and the other, less than one.

A seasoned veteran

While pursuing an English degree at Iowa State University, Mauck knew that she loved grammar and enjoyed her English classes the most.

However, copy editing was not the first thing on her mind when thinking about her future career. She considered becoming a teacher, but quickly decided it was not for her.

She stumbled across a job posting for a copy editor for her on-campus newspaper, the Iowa State Daily, after being unlucky in the search for a waitressing job. Almost immediately, she fell in love with copy editing.

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Sheila Mauck, senior copy editor at Meredith Corp.

After graduating in 1987, Mauck pursued a career in copy editing.

To better accommodate her young, growing family, Mauck chose to do freelance work in 1995, mostly through Meredith. However, she also worked for The Art Center, Iowa Architect Magazine, the Nature Conservancy, Iowa State University and many other notable clients.

In her freelance work, she worked mainly in the books group and with MXM, Meredith’s marketing group.

Nearly 14 years later, she joined the Meredith team full time.

As it was when she started in 2009, Mauck’s focus still lies in the Special Interest Media (SIM) division.

Her work includes all newsstand titles in the home, gardening and food categories, with national magazine Better Homes and Gardens being her most famous client.

Mauck joined the field of editing in a time when mainly everything was in print and little was digital.

She used to work on one website and various publications’ weekly newsletters, but now she works on multiple websites for multiple publications and edits daily newsletters.

Digital has become everything, and she says that it is important for aspiring copy editors everywhere to realize that.

“As there are more digital properties,” Mauck said in a phone interview, “It’s incumbent upon us to keep up and find people where they are.”

An accomplished newcomer

Bjorklund reached her position as senior copy editor quite rapidly, some people may think. In fact, she is the senior editor for one of the most popular magazines in the country.

Despite her relatively young age of 28, Bjorklund knows a thing or two about editing.

Since graduating from the University of Iowa in 2012 with majors in English, art and French, her career has already seen many things.

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Erika Bjorklund, senior copy editor at Meredith Corp.

She started out as an editorial intern for August Home Publishing, where she did a mix of proofreading and writing. She quickly figured out that editing was her real passion.

After completing her internship, she was hired full time as an editorial assistant and then moved up to assistant editor.

She left August Home Publishing to work at an advertising company for one year before landing her current job at Meredith.

Despite just starting a little over eight months ago, Bjorklund is a senior copy editor at Meredith Corp. and handles many duties other than editing.

She is a representative for freelance editors from other departments and is in constant communication with them. She also handles the small details at the end of every project, like making sure legal language is correct, particularly with the U.S. Postal Service

She is also in charge of a database, through which all company issues get posted digitally, and confirms all postings are accurate.

One of Bjorklund’s biggest jobs is editing for The Magnolia Journal, which she does remotely.

When asked how she got the prominent position, she reveals that it sort of fell into her lap, but that she was extremely excited to work on such a popular magazine.

In addition to The Magnolia Journal, she works mostly on home titles, like Country Homes and Gardens, but also works on food and gardening titles.

Few people receive real joy and satisfaction from finding grammar errors, but Bjorklund admits that that is what she enjoys most about being a copy editor. She is encouraged to obsess over tiny details.

“I get to take something,” she said in a phone interview, “and make it more serviceable for readers.”


Bjorklund and Mauck differ in how long they have been working at Meredith and how they approach their jobs, but they share many similarities.

Both approach copy editing from an English perspective, instead of a journalism perspective.

Both have always had a passion for grammar. They both work on home, gardening and food titles.

But most importantly, they worked for numerous companies and gained ample experience before coming to Meredith.

“I started small with no experience at my college newspaper, and just with each job that I took, I was able to just go a little deeper into that sort of a job market,” Mauck said. “Each time I took a job, it encompassed more skills and more knowledge on my part. The different experiences added up over time to culminate in the job where I am today.”

Bjorklund takes a different approach when asked how important experience is in copy editing.

“There are other ways to get the knowledge you would need because you can’t automatically start out with experience,” Bjorklund said. “Almost more than total experience, it’s good to have a familiarity with the particular titles and the particular company you’re working on.”

“If it’s your passion,” Bjorklund said, “go for it.”

University of Nebraska graduate makes it big in the publishing industry

By Colleen Schlemmel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Noah Ballard, literary agent at Curtis Brown.
(Photo courtesy of Curtis Brown)

Ever since Noah Ballard was a kid, he has been interested in writing and publishing books; but he never imagined he would one day be a successful literary agent at Curtis Brown.

In the fall of 2008, Ballard came from his home in New Jersey and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a theater major.

“I quickly switched to English when I realized that writing was more important to me than performing,” Ballard said.

Fueling his love for English, Ballard worked on the newspaper and literary magazine in both high school and college. During which, Ballard considered the idea of being an author.

“While I get close in certain respects, it’s not a reliable way to make an income,” Ballard said, “Being a literary agent and working with writers is adjacent enough to that—and it pays the bills.”

Throughout his college years, Ballard held an internship at Platypus Media, worked at Laurus Magazine as senior editor and was the entertainment editor at the Daily Nebraskan.

In 2011, he landed his first job as a literary agent at the Emma Sweeney Agency where he built his own client list and sold foreign rights for the agency.

It wasn’t until July 2014, Ballard started working at Curtis Brown. Ballard works with narrative nonfiction, literary debuts and upmarket thrillers. He is always looking for the next best story.

“My litmus test for ‘good’ writing is when I’m jealous that I didn’t write it myself,” Ballard said. “That occurs when someone finds a unique and compelling voice. For me, plot is second to a writer entertaining me on the sentence level.”

Ballard hasn’t entertained the idea of writing his own book because “I get pretty exhausted with all the reading (and rejection) I endure on a daily basis,” Ballard said. “When I get home, it’s very difficult to turn off that critical voice and be creative in my own way.”

The job of a literary agent involves a lot of rejection.

“There are many heartbreaking days when things don’t work out in getting my clients’ work out into the world,” Ballard said. “It’s hard not to take it personally or take it home with me.”

But Ballard finds a way to make the rejection constructive.

He has learned that “as an agent, if you find a great book and no one knows who you are, you’re not any better off than someone who has a shitty book who knows everyone,” Ballard said. “In fact, that second person will probably be more successful.”

Ballard’s work schedule depends on authors; no two days are alike.

“The only constant is reading and e-mail and phone calls. I’m in the office pretty regularly, but I also travel the country meeting writers at conferences or MFA programs,” Ballard said, “In New York, I take a lot of meetings and attend a lot of readings and events. Keeps me busy, but I’d rather this than being chained to a desk.”

For Ballard, this life of traveling and reading on to go is worth it.

“Connecting with a writer with our editorial vision for a book is a lot of fun,” Ballard said. “Then making someone’s dream come true when I sell their book.”

Lorie Garnett moves from writer to sports information director


Lorie Garnett

By Francis Forte
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lorie Garnett’s ability to adapt has been crucial to her success in the world of sports communications.

Garnett is the sports information director for Nebraska women’s gymnastics and women’s golf teams. In her position, Garnett writes press releases for her teams and coordinates times for journalists and media outlets to interview the student-athletes.

Garnett has extensive experience as a writer, but her jobs in sports information at Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University and Nebraska has made her appreciate the process of editing.

“It definitely took some very serious, public mistakes for me to take editing more seriously,” Garnett said in an interview. “So at Nebraska, I haven’t really had any big ‘uh-oh’ moments, because I do take editing very seriously.”

The journey to where Garnett is now started in a unique way. After Garnett’s career as a student-athlete for Utah Valley University’s track and field program ended due to a head injury, she decided it was time to take a career in communications seriously.

“I transferred to a school with a better journalism school, BYU.” Garnett said. “As soon as I got in there I got an internship with the athletic department. I worked there from the summer of my junior year until I graduated. I learned a lot, but I did not think I was lucky enough to get a job doing that.”

Although Garnett had doubts she would find a job doing what she enjoyed, an opportunity in a familiar place revealed itself.

“A job opened at Utah Valley, where I ran track.” Garnett said. “It started off as an hourly position right out of school. I stayed there for two years and just got my hands dirty, my feet wet, just doing anything that could be required.”

However, having a job in her field was not enough for Garnett. She decided, like many other people in the same field, that she needed to get a master’s degree.

“I realized that all of the people I wanted to be like had master’s degrees.” Garnett said. “In this industry it is very common to work instead of paying tuition so you can work and have your master’s paid for. When I was offered to come work and have my master’s paid for by Nebraska in exchange to do that job I had been doing, it just made total sense to me.”

During her time at BYU, Garnett learned how to edit other people’s work, which prepared her for future jobs.

“When I was at BYU we did have a very strict editing process.” Garnett said. “It worked the same as here: You write the press releases for your own teams, but every single day of the year there was an editor that was assigned on our staff. I learned a lot doing that because I was worked into the editing rotation.”

When she returned to Utah Valley and eventually went to Nebraska, the process was quite different. Garnett described her thoughts on not having an editor to look over all her work.

“When I went back to UVU it was scary because I thought ‘Oh my gosh, there is no one to proof,’” Garnett said. “That was a crash course.”

As a former writer for BYU’s student run newspaper, The Universe, Garnett has a word of advice to writers transitioning to the world of editing.

“I think the biggest thing is learning AP Style because when in doubt, just go with AP Style,” Garnett said. “Whenever I wonder if a comma goes somewhere or how a sentence should be structured, I can go back to AP Style.

“Read everything back to yourself. Read some things out loud. Get feedback and use your resources.”

Categories: finals Tags: ,

Success in TV leads Derryberry to teach where it all began

May 3, 2018 Leave a comment

Mandi Derryberry, English and broadcasting teacher at Liberty High School

By Olivia Book
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mandi Derryberry has had interactions with athletes that most sports fans dream of.

While working as a reporter for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Derryberry was around Oklahoma City’s basketball team quite a lot.

“My last day working, Kevin Durant gave me one of his shoes,” Derryberry said. “They were sponsored by Nike, so every shoot around practice or anything like that they got a brand new pair of Nike shoes, so he just gave me one.”

Now Derryberry is teaching high school students how to become successful in broadcasting.

Derryberry got her bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma City University. Originally studying dance performance, she switched two years later to major in mass communications with an emphasis in broadcasting.

Derryberry had taken broadcasting classes since the eighth grade. Her time as a student at Liberty High School showed how much she enjoyed working in broadcast.

Broadcasting was an obvious choice when she decided to switch majors. Throughout her time at OKCU she had three internships with TV stations, Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklavision and KOCO-TV 5. Amazingly enough, Derryberry worked at all three throughout her professional career as well.

“Basketball was definitely more about stats and fans and giving the community what they wanted,” Derryberry said. “Whereas KOCO was hard-hitting news, so I had to really dive into some topics that were a little uncomfortable and definitely a lot sadder than basketball.”

After working in a top 50-network for two years Derryberry was given an opportunity to go back to her dancing roots and was offered a job coaching the Northwest Missouri State’s dance team. She left her journalism career to coach and to earn her master’s degree in English education at Northwest Missouri State University.

Derryberry couldn’t stay away from journalism for long though.

After two years spent getting her master’s, she moved back to her hometown of Liberty, Missouri, to teach English and broadcasting at the same high school where her love for broadcasting began.

She said she felt prepared to teach about technology and on-air presence, but Derryberry was blindsided by teenage attitudes.

“I don’t think that coming from a professional world to a high school that you’re prepared for the pushback that you get from kids — a lot of people just not doing things,” Derryberry said. “But I’ve learned in my years.”

Derryberry has been teaching at Liberty High School for three years now and definitely has made an impact.

“I think my biggest achievement probably has been expanding the program and giving kids kind of free rein to be as creative as they want while still producing quality work daily,” she said.

From having 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. days to now teaching 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Derryberry shares the knowledge she gained from her work in Oklahoma while giving advice that she sometimes wishes she would’ve taken herself.

“My advice would be to stick it out. It’s pretty easy to give up and get defeated if you’re not getting hired and you worked really hard and all that stuff,” Derryberry said. “But if it’s what you want to do be willing to move to a small place and not get paid very much and do a lot of work until you move your way up.”

Passion for sports as a child leads to editing position

Clint Robus, digital sports editor for the Lincoln Journal Star

By Maddie Washburn
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Every week as a child, reading Sports Illustrated always came before chores or homework for Clint Robus.

“I sat there and I read the thing cover to cover,” Robus said. “That’s where I fell in love with sports writing.”

Robus grew up in the country outside of Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His family received the Sunday newspaper, but what Robus looked forward to was his weekly copy of Sports Illustrated.

“I love sports,” Robus said. “When I kind of figured out that ‘hey, I could do this as a job and people will pay me to watch sports and write about sports and think about sports’ I’m OK with that.”

Today, Robus is the digital sports editor for the Lincoln Journal Star and has held that job for five years.

Robus started his career in high school as the sports editor of his high school newspaper. In college, while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Robus worked part time at the Wisconsin State Journal, the newspaper in Madison.

“And it kind of went from there,” Robus said.

After college, Robus moved to Casper, Wyoming, to work for the Casper Star-Tribune. Robus worked as the high school beat reporter for four years, and he said the job taught him time management.

“Don’t be afraid to go out and take a job at a small paper because you’re going to learn more,” Robus said. “You’re going to learn more about what it takes to be effective and productive than staying as a part-time clerk year after year.”

During his usual 3 p.m. to midnight shift at the Lincoln Journal Star, Robus said his routine consists of checking emails, looking over the budget for the newspaper and website, helping determine where content should be placed on the website, managing sports copy editors, communicating with clerks and posting on social media.

“I’m still trying to figure things out,” Robus said.

For Robus, he said being an editor was not always something he saw himself doing.

“I just never really thought that far ahead. I didn’t fall into it,” Robus said. “My career just kind of slowly tracked that way and I ended up here.”

When it comes to writing, Robus said he gets the chance to write every so often, but not as much as he used to.

“It’s just more managing things and working with part-timers and the full-time staff too,” Robus said.

In an interview, Robus said he has a few challenges as an editor. One is figuring out how to most effectively reach readers with content because the emergence of the internet and social media in the last 10 years changes how people get their news.

Another challenge is working with deadlines after Friday night high school football, Husker football game days and high school state tournaments. On those nights, Robus sifts through lots of information.

Part of his job to is post content on social media through Twitter and Facebook. He tries to figure out how to make content stand out and reach readers.

“My boss in Madison signed me up for Twitter and I was resolutely against Twitter at that point,” Robus said. “So much has changed.”

For Robus, figuring out the different avenues for consumers to get the nonproprietary information that newspapers provide to them is what he thinks will keep readership.

“At the end of the day, the newspaper exists for the reason to sell itself,” Robus said. “We are selling our access to an interpretation of information. We are taking the time to devote resources.”

Robus also said he knows most people in the newsroom would disagree with his thought.

“The stories we tell ourselves still matter and people still want to read those stories,” Robus said. “Just how they are reading them has changed.”

Lisa Gregory Dodge anchors herself to the world of editing

By Liz Rentfro
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lisa Gregory Dodge’s story cannot be told without a key element of her college career: She was a member of Delta Gamma.

That paved the path into her dream job. lisa-dodge-gregory2

Dodge’s passion for journalism, as well as her devotion to Delta Gamma, comes through every day in her job as editor of ANCHORA, the fraternity’s quarterly magazine.

She has the opportunity to tell stories of friendship, scholarships and philanthropic projects by Delta Gamma members across the country.  

“Those inspirations that you see every day keep you going and keep you invested in Delta Gamma,” Dodge said during a telephone interview. “Personally, when you come into contact with one of your staff members, or volunteers, or members themselves, there is a distinct connection that you have with someone who is also a Delta Gamma. It’s just really fulfilling to work with such strong women.”

Dodge’s enthusiasm for journalism goes back to high school. She started working at her high school newspaper as a writer and realized it was a line of work she wanted to pursue.

 Dodge attended E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and after graduating she worked many jobs learning and sharpening her skills.

She didn’t find her true professional home until she landed a job at ANCHORA, a magazine founded in 1884 that focuses specifically on Delta Gamma at a national level.

Dodge soon became the editor. While she emphasized she has always loved writing, she said she loves the reward and the challenge of editing more.

“It can be challenging to edit other people’s work, sometimes it takes more work to edit than just writing yourself,” Dodge said, “but I enjoy the editing process more than being a reporter.” 

The ANCHORA is different than most publications not only because it is Delta Gamma specific but also because it is published quarterly. Dodge only has one publication each quarter to connect with her readers and show what the magazine has to offer.  Her goal is to make sure there are no mistakes.

“I always try and have as many people read the print before it gets sent out, but I feel like inevitably there is always something that is missed and that is the worst part of it all,” Dodge said. “This magazine is the historical record of the fraternity, and for there to be an error, or a mistake, or something we did not fact check properly, is the worst day.”

Although the ANCHORA is published as a print magazine, it also utilizes many online outlets. In addition, the Delta Gamma website also provides valuable information about ANCHORA’s content.

“The team that we have uses all of their skills to the best of their ability in the places where they are and because of that it is a superior publication.”  

Categories: finals, Rentfro Tags: ,