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Small town editor tells students: Be aware of the world

By Ben Malotte
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sally Gray

Sally Gray

Copy editors should know something about everything and everything about something. That is advice Sally Gray was given in college and now gives today.

Gray is a news editor for the Marysville Advocate, a weekly paper in Marysville, Kan. Gray does a little bit of everything at the Advocate. She designs pages, selects photos, edits and reports news. The Advocate, which comes out on Wednesdays, has a circulation of about 5,000.

Gray attended the University of Kansas where she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in journalism and then received her master of arts in the humanities from Evansville University in Evansville, Ind.

She started her career at the Evansville Press, a daily paper in Evansville, Ind., where she worked for six years. She began as a copy editor before being named one of the assistant metro editors. She then moved to Kansas where she began working for the Advocate in 1982.

In a phone interview, Gray discussed her role as an editor, offered advice for students and spoke of the future of the industry.

Q: What is a normal week like in editing at the Advocate?

A: Our preparation for a paper begins at the end of the week. On Thursday and Friday we plan and discuss ideas and edit routine things, such as columns we use each week. We edit stories that are already done, such as features. On Monday we put together the rest of the news and family living sections. Monday and Tuesday are days we do a lot of editing for the entire paper. I also do a lot of the page design and headline writing. I also choose photos. The paper gets put together through that.

Q: What aspect of editing do you enjoy the most?

A: I enjoy working with other creative people here and reading creative stories. I really enjoy grammar. I like choosing the right word for a sentence and trying to smooth writing out. I really enjoy words and knowing how to use them.

Q: What advice would you give to an up and coming editor?

A: Study hard. Get good grades. Also, you have to be street smart, you need to have good balance. Get out there, know what is going on in the world and get some experience. Being able to talk to people and work well with others is very important. Being able to listen to what people say and pick up on what is around you will be helpful. Be aware of your town and environment. I think taking a wide variety of classes, not just journalism courses, is important. You need to know your craft but it is important to be versed in many other fields as well. Know a lot about the world and learn another language. Students today have a great opportunity to study abroad and it’s important to take advantage of those opportunities.

Q: How has the Advocate adjusted to the decline of print news?

A: We have developed a website and we are on Twitter and Facebook. Since our county has a lot of older inhabitants, our print edition is still going strong. We do realize that won’t be the case for the future. We have discussed creating an app for mobile devices. We discussed putting more of our paper online, but then we have to think about charging people. We try to keep up with social media, we have a foothold at least, but with a small staff it is difficult. The young people on staff here keep us up-to-date on what ways people are getting their news. But we are still strong on the print side.

Q: Where do you see the journalism/news industry heading in the future?

A: Probably more and more toward digital. Good journalism skills will still be needed. Whether it’s print or digital, the basic skills will be needed. Research is an important skill that you learn in journalism school and will always be needed. People hear news off of Facebook, and a lot of times it isn’t true or not completely factual. Even though digital news has opened up the opportunity for more commentators and reporters to deliver news, I believe people still want to go to an authoritative site. People know those journalists have done the research and have the background to write a factual story. I think we’ll be putting more and more of the Advocate’s news in a digital format, but I think the print edition will be around here for a while.

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