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Elisabeth Mistretta shares views on editing and accuracy

Elisabeth Mistretta

Elisabeth Mistretta, news editor at the Sun-Times News Group

By Cara Snower
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Elisabeth Mistretta is a news editor at the Sun-Times News Group, a news company that covers the north and west suburbs of Chicago.  She edits the Highland Park News, the Deerfield Review, the Lake Forester, the Libertyville Review, the Mundelein Review and the Vernon Hills Review.

Throughout high school, Mistretta was involved in her school paper.  She attended Loyola University and found journalism classes interesting.  She chose to build her own communications major because Loyola University did not offer one that she was looking for.  She also sought internships. After graduation, her first job was a community news coordinator at the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago.  She then became a municipal reporter, an assistant editor and eventually an editor/reporter.  Most of her work has been in newspapers, but she appeared about a dozen times on broadcast radio.  In January 2013, she began her career at the Sun-Times News Group as a news editor.

Mistretta’s day begins at 7:45 a.m.  She sorts through her emails and lets reporters know what stories need to be covered.  She has them fill out a “tomorrow file” so she knows where they will be throughout the day.  Mistretta then edits and posts stories written by her staff.   She meets with them on Wednesdays to discuss the next print issue and on Mondays and Tuesdays, she puts the paper together with the layout, design and advertisement placements.  Mistretta knows she must have flexibility when reporting and choosing stories.

Like every job, Mistretta’s has pros and cons.  Mistretta takes pride in developing reporters.  She loves hearing new ideas as well as encouraging, working with and guiding her staff.  She also enjoys being able to tell stories.  But she is disappointed when she sees mistakes in stories.  She believes that there is always more news than reporters are able to report.  And she finds it frustrating to work with people who are trying to “impress and not express.”

Changes in the media industry have affected the Sun-Times Media Group and editors have become overwhelmed.  “Newspapers are cutting costs and staff, people are not being replaced and other people are being stretched,” she said.  Editors have been laid off, leaving a higher workload for the editors who are responsible for multiple newspapers. Advertising revenues also have dropped as more people access news for free online.

Some stories are more challenging to cover than others. Mistretta recalled covering a story in 2012 about a murder in Naperville, Ill.  A 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl were slain.  Mistretta said she felt pressure to report the story first because everyone was seeking information.  But information needed to be coordinated and everyone involved deserved to be treated with respect.

The most common mistakes Mistretta sees in editing are style mistakes and misused apostrophes.  She also sees spelling errors, repetition and misusing words.  She believes that these small mistakes happen when people rush to publish a story.

The best advice Mistretta has for people interested in journalism is to go in with passion and eyes wide open.  It’s not a career for people who simply want to make a lot of money. But people who care about their communities will find success as journalists.  Everyone should know the business side of journalism.  Mistretta said, “you must be willing to go the extra mile.”

Mistretta looks at journalism as walking into someone’s life for a day and becoming an expert on what they do.  Each story may be minor to the journalist, but it’s a big deal to the person being covered.  For this reason, Mistretta stresses reporting stories correctly and respectfully.  Her goal is to do justice to the person who she’s writing about, but also to make readers interested in the story.

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