Online editor tells students: ‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions’
By Annie Pigaga
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
When Patrick Smith first came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he wanted to be a broadcast major. After touring Husker Vision in his first semester, he realized that it wasn’t the right fit.
“A week later, I switched my major to News Ed., and I thought I wanted to be a reporter,” said Smith, now an online editor for the Omaha World-Herald.
Smith went on to be a sports reporter for the Daily Nebraskan for three years. When his senior year rolled around, he received an internship at The New York Times News Service as a copy editor through a highly competitive Dow Jones News Fund program. After realizing how well editing fit him, Smith began copy editing at the Daily Nebraskan.
“My internship went really well, and I had one more semester of school,” Smith said in an interview. “I just kept at it, and have been on that path ever since.”
After graduating in 2005, Smith went on to the Des Moines Register as a copy editor and page designer. He later began work at a private company as a copy editor in Des Moines, but after several years, Smith wanted to move back to journalism. He was hired at the Lincoln Journal Star as an online editor, which later evolved into a sports online editor position.
“I went to the Lincoln Journal Star with almost no online experience,” Smith said. “I learned a lot there.”
Smith now finds himself in a job were the average day is “all over the place.” There are a few routine tasks, but every day means a different job.
“A normal day is five minutes of this, five minutes of that, all day long,” Smith said. “Time goes really fast, and I work with some really fun people.”
When it comes to editing, Smith thinks it’s important that every editor remember certain things:
- “Have that antenna that pops up when something just doesn’t seem right.”
- “Don’t be afraid to look things up.”
- “Ask questions.”
- “Double check.”
- “Put yourself in the readers’ shoes.”
Smith thinks that it is also important to remember that everyone is human. In a 24/7 news cycle, there’s an expectation of having news ready to go at a quick pace.
“We’re pushed to do stuff fast,” Smith said, “and people make honest mistakes.”
These days, social media is something that has to be thought of almost as often as editing. Once something is written at the Omaha World-Herald, Smith has to consider how it could play into social media.
“We’re always thinking ‘should we do something on Facebook about this? On Twitter? Should we try to do a poll? Should we make a Storify?’”
Social media even comes up in budget meetings, where editors talk about how many hits each piece gets online and how many of them came from social media.
With such a change in attitude toward social media in such a small period of time, Smith is unsure of what the future of editing will be like. One thing he is sure of is that editing will still be necessary.
“I think strong editors that have common sense, that are quick and resourceful, are definitely going to be in demand.”