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ACES board member shares editing experience, offers advice

Photo courtesy of copydesk.org.

Gerri Berendzen

By Mason Shumaker
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Gerri Berendzen always loved journalism, but she never much cared for reporting. While completing her undergraduate degree in history at Saint Louis University, Berendzen landed her first job in journalism as a crime reporter for a publication near St. Louis called The Pacific Journal. 

“I felt uncomfortable covering some of the crime stories, and of course I only wanted to write about what I wanted to write about,” Berendzen said in a phone interview. 

After completing a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, Berendzen knew she wanted to be a copy editor. The Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis hired Berendzen as a copy editor and page designer, eventually promoting her to assistant chief of desk, then to city editor. After eight years at the Suburban Journals, Berendzen moved to the Quincy Herald-Whig in Quincy, Ill., in 1989, where she is now the editorial production coordinator. 

She has seen many changes in copy editing over the years.

“You’ll always have a copy editor, the rules just change,” Berendzen said.  “The job has changed from just editing, to being multitalented: headlines, doing timelines, pages and graphics for the Web.” 

Berendzen offered advice for aspiring copy editors.

“Learn as much as you can about things that may not seem like editing, but are really about the whole job of editing,” she said. “Learn about new media. You can’t be the person wanting to do it the same way all the time.

 “Think outside the newspaper box when you’re looking for a job.” 

Berendzen’s work as a copy editor extends beyond her position at the Quincy Herald-Whig. In 2006, she was elected to the executive committee of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES). It exists to promote the profession of copy editing in both news and non-news positions, as well as to provide training and networking opportunities for its members.

“I ran for the board on a friend’s suggestion,” she said, “and I’ve run and been elected every time since.” 

Berendzen first started attending yearly conferences hosted by the ACES in 2000, and it was because of those conferences that Berendzen was the first person in her office talking about innovations for news delivery like Twitter and timelines.

 “Really, I just like it. It’s nice to talk about copy editing with other copy editors and like minded people,” said Berendzen, referring to ACES. In the future, Berendzen hopes to increase training opportunities for copy editors working at smaller publications. 

 “Copy editing means quality control,” she said. “At a factory, you can’t ship a chair if the chair has a wobbly leg.”


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