Denver magazine journalist juggles editing for print, Web
By Sable Holub
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Natasha Gardner doesn’t have just one job at 5280, a Denver lifestyle magazine.
She has three.
She is the digital editor for 5280.com, a senior editor and an occasional writer. Her typical day is busy: She spends half her time working on longer stories, helping out with other features and editing stories. The other half is spent overseeing the magazine’s digital material including newsletters, daily blogs and video.
Gardner did not start college as a journalism major or even know she wanted to be an editor.
“I always knew I wanted to be involved in public service in some sort of way,” she said. “I was a sociology major in college and my sociology professor finally sat me down and said ‘you love telling stories, but you’re not a sociologist. You are a reporter.’”
At first, she said she wasn’t convinced. After she looked into it, she realized her professor was right.
Gardner got into book publishing as a way to get into the world of writing and editing. She was an acquisitions editor, which means she acquired rights to books in bargain sections from places like Barnes and Noble.
A few years later she realized she wanted to be more involved with developing, writing and editing stories instead of working with final projects. So Gardner left book publishing and went back to school to get a master’s in journalism from the University of Colorado. Then she started working at 5280.
“I always describe it as ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ she said, explaining the difference in her choice of jobs. “Book publishing is way too slow and newspapers were way too fast and magazines were somewhere in-between.”
While she was working on her master’s degree she interned at three places: The Boulder Women’s Magazine, American Cowboy Magazine and the Dickinson Press. She wanted to learn and experience as much as she could. For Gardner, going back to school was a way for her to meet people and make connections in the industry, while also learning things she hadn’t learned as an undergraduate.
Now, she likes both editing and writing, which she said balance each other out. “It gives you a view into the other side.”
Being a writer makes you a better editor and being an editor makes you a better writer.
The same concept applies to being both a digital editor and a print editor. She said she’s able to go back and forth, so when she gets bored with one she can move to the other.
The main differences between digital and print are programs and formatting. But m any similarities exist between the two. Gardner finds that she can relate the digital world to the print easily. The language that she uses, the way she puts a story or a video together is the same as if she were editing a print piece.
Her biggest challenge as an editor has been prioritizing ideas or projects; she has to decide whether it will be a project she invests time in or one she’ll have to wait on.
“Once I come up with an idea, having the patience to let it percolate and live on its own for a while is really hard for me,” Gardner admitted.
With the challenges come good things though. Gardner’s favorite part is when she is working on a story and, after putting everything together, she has to test to see if her theory holds true.
“If it does then you have a story that really works and if it falls apart then you have to do more reporting. I love going through that process of testing.”
In fact, in the December issue of 5280 Gardner had an article called “Direct Fail” that she has seen come full circle. The article is about the policies Colorado has on trying juveniles in adult court. In January, a bipartisan bill passed the House and the Senate; it would dramatically change the law in Colorado. The bill is now sitting on the governor’s desk.
For Gardner it has been an incredible project to be involved in because it’s a topic she’s passionate about and is glad others, such as the people she wrote about, are able to see it come this far. “It’s something reporters don’t usually get to see,” she said.
Without hesitation, Gardner sees herself in journalism for the long haul. She may not have known right away that she wanted to be an editor, but with guidance and a little push in the right direction, she realized it’s just right for her.