Detroit News sports editor: ‘It’s all about being timely on the Web’
By Connor Stange
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Q: Tell me what a typical day at work is like.
A: I have lots of meetings. I have to do it so that things get done. I still do a lot of hands-on editing and local copy. I also help out with the layouts for pages and choose which ones I don’t like, which we would then change. I also have a hand in photo choosing. A lot of true journalism is rewriting and assigning reporters…. The Penn State story last week was a big story for us, so we had to adjust for that. I also ask the writers what they want to talk about. It’s usually suggestions, different angles or perspectives to a story. The discussions won’t last long usually. They have usually spent a lot of time already thinking of angles. Another big part of my job is talking with copy desk, editors and designers.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as an editor?
A: Nowadays it’s all about being timely on the Web. We also need to be timely on other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. We say that unless you are 100 percent positive that your story is exclusive, you basically just need to be up on the news. It’s a big struggle nowadays because everyone can blog. One concern is who gets the credit for a story. Liability is a big deal, and things such as ‘says who?’ People shouldn’t get too excited unless they are reliable. Whichever reporter we have on a story better be on top of it. We can’t be the last to provide the news because people won’t come to our website.”
Q: What kind of editing skills should all journalism students have?
A: The obvious thing is that they should all be computer literate. The online component that journalism is now providing is so crucial to the media. Besides that, the biggest thing is being able to communicate with everyone in your department and outside your department. You want people to know who you are. You need to show them that you are available 24/7, but at the same time, you have a job. They need to respect what you do, and you should respect what they do. Recently we had a big story on (baseball player) Miguel Cabrera, who got a DUI. We had to be able to do everything for the story, even going with a public relations point of view at times. Through this story, we had to show that we could work with people we weren’t used to working with. Most people don’t like to talk with people outside of their own realm. Go outside, because the more people you talk to, the better.
Q: What do you and your newspaper look for when hiring journalists?
A: I went to UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) 20 years ago. Some people go to Northwestern or other prestigious schools. It doesn’t matter. When I said I went to UTEP, people asked, ‘do they have a journalism school?’ We don’t look at their school or what they’ve accomplished. I look for three things. I want someone who is a good writer. I want someone who can communicate. And I also want someone who will do everything they can to make The Detroit News the best it can be on all levels. You have to be a good reporter. There is more to it than just being a good writer. You should be able to cover all aspects of the story and be able to communicate with anyone that you need to. How can you make your product the best it can be? I want people who go the extra mile. When it comes to experience, whether you are fresh out of college or you’ve been doing it for 10 years, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you can do those things.
Q: What’s the most difficult or stressful part of being an editor?
A: The politics. Just like any business, you have to play the game. You have to hear people say, ‘do it my way.’ Just do your job. That’s all I care about. I could care less about why people want this or that. With your given tools, do your job, no excuses. I’m not going to lie. It’s not like I’m saying, ‘it’s my way.’ It’s not about me. It’s frustrating with all the egos. We are all in it to make ourselves relevant.
Q: What should editors be more aware of in today’s journalism atmosphere?
A: Being aware of everything. You’ve got to wear a marketing hat. If an opportunity rises, such as reporting for ESPN, go for it. We are co-sponsors for the Little Caesar’s Bowl. It’s small but it gets our name out there. Basically, just get out there and shake the hands, kiss the babies. It’s not just about you and writing.”
Q: Was editing always in your plans?
A: I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to cover the Los Angeles Dodgers, because I was a big baseball fan. In college, I covered the Sun Bowl, which was major college football. My first opportunity was to be a copy editor. It got me in the door and I said, ‘this is fun.’ I really like having a say in what the paper will look like each day. I’m still writing, so I like it. I enjoy being able to guide reporters and help them get better. I’ve decided that this is the route I want to take.