Home > finals, tips > Editor Haylee Pearl says working on a copy desk is anything but boring

Editor Haylee Pearl says working on a copy desk is anything but boring

By Paige Ourada
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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“Sometimes I’m doing five different jobs in one day,” copy editor Haylee Pearl said.

“I found early on that I have a high tolerance for things other people find boring,” Haylee Pearl said when asked how she became an editor.

“Not only did I not mind it, I actually enjoyed it,” she said. “I realized there was a need for people like that in the world.”

Although she tried  different jobs, Pearl, a copy editor at the Omaha World-Herald,  learned that she had a knack for editing.

Like a lot of journalists, she got her start in editing at her high school paper. After editing for four years at Ohio University’s The Post and interning at what is now the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Pearl knew she was hooked.

After graduating from Ohio University in the spring of 2015, Pearl headed across the Midwest to the Cornhusker state.

Nebraska had caught her eye through its music scene. Pearl said that a lot of music she listens to is produced by Saddle Creek Records, a record label from Omaha.

“Because of that, Omaha was on my radar as good place for millenials,” Pearl said. Pearl also said what attracted her were the restaurants and low cost of living. After seeing a job posting for a copy editing position at the World-Herald, Pearl applied shortly before her graduation and was working at the paper by June.

Most people assume editing jobs are mindless or boring. Pearl disagrees.

For her, there is no such thing as a typical day. She says her job on the copy desk involves playing multiple roles, sometimes five in one shift. Some days, Pearl is line editing, checking pieces straight from the city desk and writing headlines. She will check for grammar, spelling, AP style and the World-Herald’s specific style. Other times, Pearl says she is a wire editor. A wire editor looks at national and international news to decide which stories are most important to put in the paper. At the time of this interview, Pearl was gearing up to edit multiple pieces about the recent presidential election.

Pearl said her favorite job at the copy desk is online editing.

“I like social media because you get immediate impact and feedback,” she said.

With online editing, Pearl said, comes pressure.

“You’re often the first person to look at a story,” she said. “You need to make sure there aren’t any major mistakes that are getting past you before you press the publish button and share it with the world.”

In addition to editing stories, Pearl also spends a lot of her time on page design. She is assigned to a six-page spread in the Midlands section that she must lay out each night for the next day’s paper.

One part of Pearl’s job that some might find unpleasant is her shift’s hours.

“The copy desk usually works from about 3 or 4 p.m. to midnight or 1 a.m.,” she said.

Despite the crazy hours, Pearl likes having a set shift.

“The things that reporters go through like chasing down sources and interviewing people just sound exhausting to me,” she said.

Pearl likes being able to go in and do the work in front of her. At the end of her shift, she can sign off and go home. She doesn’t have to worry about work that needs to be done.

One thing Pearl said she has learned most from her job is how to multitask. On a copy desk, she said, you learn how to do multiple jobs simultaneously. Pearl also said every role she plays involves having good news judgment and the ability to pay attention to detail.

Pearl had a piece of advice for aspiring editors: “Don’t rule anything out.”

Don’t decide you do not like something if you have never tried it. After all, if Pearl had never tried editing, she would not be where she is today.

Follow Haylee Pearl on Twitter

Haylee Pearl’s LinkedIn page

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