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Correcting errors just one part of Daily Herald news editor’s day

By Adam Kroft
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Neil Holdway, Daily Herald news editor, American Copy Editors Society treasurer and recreational cyclist answered questions via email about his lifestyle as a professional editor.

Holdway is a news editor working at the Daily Herald in Chicago’s suburbs.  Holdway has worked as a copy editor, systems editor, assistant news editor and metro news editor on the news copy desk since joining the paper in 1992. He has been treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society, a professional organization dedicated to copy editing, since 2005.

Holdway, who lives in Schamburg, Ill.,  graduated from Northwestern University in 1992 with a degree in journalism and  English writing. Holdway enjoys cycling and bowling in his free time.

Q: How would you describe your job?

A: I’m the news editor at the Daily Herald, which means the lead editor at night. I also lead the Page 1 slot and the website slot. I also plan our front-page designs and enforce our policies.

Q: What do you do on a daily basis?

A: I accomplish various administrative chores: Slot page one stories, slot the opinion page, proofread business and wire pages, design front-page packages, paginate jump pages, edit the website and edit a regular feature for the morning.

Q: Did you always want to be an editor?

Photo of Neil Holdway.

Neil Holdway talks about being an editor.

A: No, I assumed starting in grade school I’d be a writer. I didn’t discover copy editing until college, and I fell in love with it thereafter.

Q: What made you interested in editing?

A: I enjoyed correcting errors. I liked putting the paper together, such as layout. I liked all the various little bits of writing the job requires, such as headlines and display type.

Q: How did you get where you are today?

A:  I was promoted to management very early in my career because of my technological skills. Pagination was the big new thing back then, because I was well-organized. I was promoted again after that, and I actually took a little step back to catch my breath a little and learn. I then stepped back into serious management 7 years ago, where I’ve stayed since. I’m a workaholic, and that has been a big reason why I am where I am.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: My favorite part is editing and front-page design.

Q: What is your least favorite part of your job?

A: Conflict, though of course that’s part of the drill, and just feeling beat at the end of the week.

Q: What is your favorite grammar rule?

A: Misplaced modifiers drive me crazy. Please, put “only” in the right place. For example, who and whom, bothers me especially that the clause in which the word resides determines which one to use.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see?

A: The misplaced “only.”

Q: Are there any ethical issues in editing today?

A: There are all kinds of ethical issues. Ethics is a big part of the job. There are whole seminars, Web pages, papers, books on these issues.

Q: Why the Daily Herald?

A: For me, it was a good-sized daily in the Chicago area, where I have lived all my life. It also has a tremendous underdog spirit to it, going up against the Tribune Company in Chicago and other papers. It offers a lot of opportunities to do many things.

Q:  How does it feel to be the treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society?

A: Well, I like the job because I like math and finance. I have done bookkeeping work on the side for years and learned a little about investing that way. Banking these days, however, can be a headache.

Q: If you could have any other job, what would it be?

A: I would love to be an investment manager, possibly a chief financial officer.

Q: Who is your favorite journalist to read? Why?

A: I don’t know if I would have a single favorite. I find the best journalistic reading is in Esquire magazine.

Q: Where do you feel journalism is headed?

A: We are starting to see where journalism is headed, on the Web. There is always the print question. Will journalism survive? I think it has many years left. TV was supposed to kill newspapers; it didn’t. But yes, we don’t have the telegram anymore. Overall, the demand for news remains, and that means opportunity for us.

Q: What is your advice for aspiring editors or journalists?

A: Be able to do a variety of things. Be flexible, master fundamentals, don’t be sloppy, be confident and humble and be open to the unfamiliar and most importantly like what you do.

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