Cincinnati editor faces tough decisions, offers advice
By Anna English
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Randy Essex had to choose an elective in ninth grade. His mom said, “You write pretty well. You ought to try journalism.”
One class was all he needed to become hooked.
In a phone interview, Essex described his journey from ninth grade journalism. He is now the senior news editor for The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Essex graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While he was a student he covered the city council for the Daily Nebraskan, the student-run newspaper.
While at UNL, Essex interned for the Omaha World-Herald, where he spent half of his time reporting and the other half editing. He figured out he was a good reporter, but more importantly, he learned he was a better editor.
After graduating, Essex worked for The Des Moines Register, the Detroit Free Press and a think tank in Colorado.
After working in journalism for so long, moving to the think tank was difficult because it was less stimulating.
He returned to journalism when the editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer sent him a Facebook message. Essex was asked if he knew anyone who would be qualified for a news editor position.
The position described was identical to the work Essex did while in Detroit.
He responded, “You mean besides me?”
After all of his experiences, Essex can confirm that being an editor is hard work with tough choices.
When working in Des Moines, he was faced with one of the toughest decisions of his career.
A 17-year-old student brought a gun to school and attempted to commit suicide in front of his class.
The student shot himself in the head and his 20 classmates were traumatized. The school was shutdown.
The newspaper got the name from the police report and named him in the story. The motto in Des Moines was if there was a crime worth reporting, the name was worth mentioning.
However, the boy survived, and the parents asked the newspaper to not name him.
“At the time, it was a routine decision,” Essex said, “It was a tough decision in retrospect.”
As an editor, Essex has also seen his fair share of mistakes.
Basic grammar and spelling mistakes are the most common. When a reporter uses the wrong “there,” it shows a lack of precision.
“These are mistakes I don’t think a fourth grader should make,” Essex said.
Essex offered these editing tips:
1. The best editing is done before a word is written.
2. To understand the story, partner with the writer.
3. If something is unclear to the editor, it will be unclear to thousands.
4. Strive to know and report enough information to be authoritative.
5. Editing ideas is time well spent.