Home > Uncategorized > Editors are gatekeepers, curating the best information for readers

Editors are gatekeepers, curating the best information for readers

Alicia Christensen

Alicia Christensen, acquisitions editor of American studies, cultural criticism and creative works including literature in translation at University of Nebraska Press.

By Abby Stryker
University of Nebraska


When describing her role at the University of Nebraska Press, Alicia Christensen doesn’t talk about copy, misused phrases or horrible grammar.

Instead, she said: “I serve as part of the gatekeeper process.”

For Christensen, editing is “separating the wheat from the chaff.”

In a time where self-publishing is increasingly popular and any voice can be heard through blogs, videos or forums, are editors obsolete? Christensen would say no. “There’s a reason why people look at best-seller lists…. They want someone to curate that for them. They don’t want to wade through all the crap [to find the gems] because it’s time consuming.”

So if editors are gatekeepers, what qualifies Christensen? Years of study, hard work and experience. Christensen graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English. After spending time working with Prairie Schooner (the literary journal published by the English department and the University of Nebraska Press) in her final years at college, Christensen interned at the University of Nebraska Press where she found a permanent home. Starting as an acquisitions assistant in 2005, Christensen worked her way up through associate acquisitions editor and editor of Bison Books (University of Nebraska Press’s trade paperback line) before landing her current position as acquisitions editor.

Christensen didn’t always want to be in publishing.

“I had gone in originally thinking I wanted to be in academia,” she said, “but about halfway through my MA realized it wasn’t for me.”

Instead of dropping the master’s program, Christensen refocused and began working with Prairie Schooner. Because of that relationship, an opportunity for an internship at the University of Nebraska Press opened up. And in the last year of her master’s program, a full-time position opened up at the press.

“It was just sort of serendipity I suppose.”

Now that Christensen has been at the University of Nebraska Press for 10 years, she’s had a chance to explore other areas of interest. Expanding Frontiers is a new book series she’s working on that builds upon the journal Frontiers (a publication with an emphasis on an interdisciplinary study of diversity published by University of Nebraska Press).  Expanding Frontiers aims to expand thinking on and study of gender and sexuality; feminism; and women’s studies. When asked about the rewarding aspects of her job, Christensen said, “being able to contribute to the conversation” and helping educate the public.

Internships have played a big role in Christensen’s success.

“Publishing, along with a lot of others, is an opaque industry, so it’s necessary to learn from those on the inside,” she said.

Internships are almost necessary to land a job in the editing and publishing world. Finding a mentor is also an invaluable asset. Christensen connected with such a person  — Ladette Randolph — when she began working at the University of Nebraska Press.  Christensen began working for Randolph as her assistant in the acquisitions department in 2005. She admired Randolph’s vision for her work at the press, the way she handled and worked with authors, and her demeanor.

Christensen said it wasn’t the obvious kind of mentoring where a mentor sits down one-on-one to talk about the mentee’s future; it was more developing a good relationship with someone who you admire in a career you’d like to have and observing.

Being an editor,  takes a lot of learning and guidance. Christensen values her relationships in the industry highly and suggests students or new editors take advantage of the wisdom of those with more experience.

Her advice: Don’t give up. Try something new. Observe and build relationships with those in the career you see yourself in. And, never underestimate the importance of an internship.


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