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Omaha World-Herald copy editor loves creativity of her job

Courtney Pitts-Mattern is editor at Omaha World-Herald

Courtney Pitts-Mattern is a copy editor at the Omaha World-Herald

By Alissa Shanahan
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Courtney Pitts-Mattern wouldn’t have known about being a copy editor if it wasn’t for her editing class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Even then, she had little knowledge of jobs in journalism outside of being a reporter or copy editor.

“I expected a one-way view, like tunnel-vision,” Mattern said in a phone interview.  “I thought I was only going to be sitting at a copy desk for five years. There are a lot more jobs than just that.”

For the past eight months, Mattern has worked as both a copy and wire editor at the Omaha World-Herald.  Her favorite part of her job? Writing headlines.

She said she loves both jobs, but she especially likes when she gets to “be a stickler, while also getting to be creative.” Headline writing allows her to do just that.

At the World-Herald, Mattern said her role at the copy desk is not like many others. The difference, she said, is that everyone does “little jobs,” dividing the work of what a rim editor would do.

When assigned as the copy editor, she comes in around 4:30 p.m. and reads, edits and fact checks stories until about 1:30 a.m. She uses her creativity when she designs pages.

Working as the wire editor, she gets to the office around 2:00 p.m. and skims through all of the international and national news wires, seeing everything going on in the world. She attends budget meetings and talks about the major stories on the wire with other editors, making Page 1 recommendations.  She also designs pages, trim stories,  edits copy and chooses photos.

Mattern said wire editing is much more intense than copy editing. A wire editor must pay attention to many details and makes more decisions.

“There is a lot of stress on a wire editor for picking the right news and having an instinct as to what’s going to be a big story,” she said. “You also have to balance coverage and be sure you’re not blowing anything out of proportion.”

Objectivity is essential for editors, she said. Editors must be careful not to make assumptions or insert errors.

Mattern said another difference between her two jobs is the copy editors work more  disconnected from other people in the office, while wire editors are intertwined with graphic artists and other local editors.

When asked how the World-Herald compares to other papers, she said that they don’t focus as much on breaking news because they assume people have seen it beforehand.

“At the World-Herald, we want to give people something they can’t get elsewhere,” Mattern said.

Another difference, Mattern said, is that the World-Herald is less like an assembly line than other papers and the design is much more creative.

When asked about her future, Mattern said she hopes to someday work more in design, maybe in a management position. She also said she might like to end up working for a magazine, doing something more creative.

Both inside and outside of her job, Mattern said she likes to brainstorm funny things and not be so serious all of the time.

Mattern shows her creative and humorous side on her website, where she talks about her love for headline writing and being the “ultimate word nerd.”

Mattern graduated college less than two years ago. After graduation, she worked as a copy editor at a newspaper in Little Rock, Ark., before joining the Omaha paper. She’s been successful so far in her young career because of her work ethic and positivity.

Advice that she gives to others in the field: “Make an impression, and a positive one.”

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