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Experience the key to success for two Meredith copy editors

By Camryn Preston
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Age is just a number in the world of copy editing.

Experience is everything.

Despite coming from different generations, two copy editors from Meredith Corp. in Des Moines, Iowa, reached where they are today because of two things: hard work and a love for grammar.

Sheila Mauck is a senior copy editor for Meredith Corp. She works on stories for major-magazine Better Homes and Gardens, digital media, and mastheads for special-interest publications.

Erika Bjorklund is also a senior copy editor for Meredith, where she is a liaison for freelancers in other departments, handles administrative duties, and most notably, is the senior copy editor for The Magnolia Journal.

The difference between them? One has been working at Meredith for over 20 years, and the other, less than one.

A seasoned veteran

While pursuing an English degree at Iowa State University, Mauck knew that she loved grammar and enjoyed her English classes the most.

However, copy editing was not the first thing on her mind when thinking about her future career. She considered becoming a teacher, but quickly decided it was not for her.

She stumbled across a job posting for a copy editor for her on-campus newspaper, the Iowa State Daily, after being unlucky in the search for a waitressing job. Almost immediately, she fell in love with copy editing.

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Sheila Mauck, senior copy editor at Meredith Corp.

After graduating in 1987, Mauck pursued a career in copy editing.

To better accommodate her young, growing family, Mauck chose to do freelance work in 1995, mostly through Meredith. However, she also worked for The Art Center, Iowa Architect Magazine, the Nature Conservancy, Iowa State University and many other notable clients.

In her freelance work, she worked mainly in the books group and with MXM, Meredith’s marketing group.

Nearly 14 years later, she joined the Meredith team full time.

As it was when she started in 2009, Mauck’s focus still lies in the Special Interest Media (SIM) division.

Her work includes all newsstand titles in the home, gardening and food categories, with national magazine Better Homes and Gardens being her most famous client.

Mauck joined the field of editing in a time when mainly everything was in print and little was digital.

She used to work on one website and various publications’ weekly newsletters, but now she works on multiple websites for multiple publications and edits daily newsletters.

Digital has become everything, and she says that it is important for aspiring copy editors everywhere to realize that.

“As there are more digital properties,” Mauck said in a phone interview, “It’s incumbent upon us to keep up and find people where they are.”

An accomplished newcomer

Bjorklund reached her position as senior copy editor quite rapidly, some people may think. In fact, she is the senior editor for one of the most popular magazines in the country.

Despite her relatively young age of 28, Bjorklund knows a thing or two about editing.

Since graduating from the University of Iowa in 2012 with majors in English, art and French, her career has already seen many things.

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Erika Bjorklund, senior copy editor at Meredith Corp.

She started out as an editorial intern for August Home Publishing, where she did a mix of proofreading and writing. She quickly figured out that editing was her real passion.

After completing her internship, she was hired full time as an editorial assistant and then moved up to assistant editor.

She left August Home Publishing to work at an advertising company for one year before landing her current job at Meredith.

Despite just starting a little over eight months ago, Bjorklund is a senior copy editor at Meredith Corp. and handles many duties other than editing.

She is a representative for freelance editors from other departments and is in constant communication with them. She also handles the small details at the end of every project, like making sure legal language is correct, particularly with the U.S. Postal Service

She is also in charge of a database, through which all company issues get posted digitally, and confirms all postings are accurate.

One of Bjorklund’s biggest jobs is editing for The Magnolia Journal, which she does remotely.

When asked how she got the prominent position, she reveals that it sort of fell into her lap, but that she was extremely excited to work on such a popular magazine.

In addition to The Magnolia Journal, she works mostly on home titles, like Country Homes and Gardens, but also works on food and gardening titles.

Few people receive real joy and satisfaction from finding grammar errors, but Bjorklund admits that that is what she enjoys most about being a copy editor. She is encouraged to obsess over tiny details.

“I get to take something,” she said in a phone interview, “and make it more serviceable for readers.”

***

Bjorklund and Mauck differ in how long they have been working at Meredith and how they approach their jobs, but they share many similarities.

Both approach copy editing from an English perspective, instead of a journalism perspective.

Both have always had a passion for grammar. They both work on home, gardening and food titles.

But most importantly, they worked for numerous companies and gained ample experience before coming to Meredith.

“I started small with no experience at my college newspaper, and just with each job that I took, I was able to just go a little deeper into that sort of a job market,” Mauck said. “Each time I took a job, it encompassed more skills and more knowledge on my part. The different experiences added up over time to culminate in the job where I am today.”

Bjorklund takes a different approach when asked how important experience is in copy editing.

“There are other ways to get the knowledge you would need because you can’t automatically start out with experience,” Bjorklund said. “Almost more than total experience, it’s good to have a familiarity with the particular titles and the particular company you’re working on.”

“If it’s your passion,” Bjorklund said, “go for it.”

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University of Nebraska graduate makes it big in the publishing industry

By Colleen Schlemmel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Noah Ballard, literary agent at Curtis Brown.
(Photo courtesy of Curtis Brown)

Ever since Noah Ballard was a kid, he has been interested in writing and publishing books; but he never imagined he would one day be a successful literary agent at Curtis Brown.

In the fall of 2008, Ballard came from his home in New Jersey and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a theater major.

“I quickly switched to English when I realized that writing was more important to me than performing,” Ballard said.

Fueling his love for English, Ballard worked on the newspaper and literary magazine in both high school and college. During which, Ballard considered the idea of being an author.

“While I get close in certain respects, it’s not a reliable way to make an income,” Ballard said, “Being a literary agent and working with writers is adjacent enough to that—and it pays the bills.”

Throughout his college years, Ballard held an internship at Platypus Media, worked at Laurus Magazine as senior editor and was the entertainment editor at the Daily Nebraskan.

In 2011, he landed his first job as a literary agent at the Emma Sweeney Agency where he built his own client list and sold foreign rights for the agency.

It wasn’t until July 2014, Ballard started working at Curtis Brown. Ballard works with narrative nonfiction, literary debuts and upmarket thrillers. He is always looking for the next best story.

“My litmus test for ‘good’ writing is when I’m jealous that I didn’t write it myself,” Ballard said. “That occurs when someone finds a unique and compelling voice. For me, plot is second to a writer entertaining me on the sentence level.”

Ballard hasn’t entertained the idea of writing his own book because “I get pretty exhausted with all the reading (and rejection) I endure on a daily basis,” Ballard said. “When I get home, it’s very difficult to turn off that critical voice and be creative in my own way.”

The job of a literary agent involves a lot of rejection.

“There are many heartbreaking days when things don’t work out in getting my clients’ work out into the world,” Ballard said. “It’s hard not to take it personally or take it home with me.”

But Ballard finds a way to make the rejection constructive.

He has learned that “as an agent, if you find a great book and no one knows who you are, you’re not any better off than someone who has a shitty book who knows everyone,” Ballard said. “In fact, that second person will probably be more successful.”

Ballard’s work schedule depends on authors; no two days are alike.

“The only constant is reading and e-mail and phone calls. I’m in the office pretty regularly, but I also travel the country meeting writers at conferences or MFA programs,” Ballard said, “In New York, I take a lot of meetings and attend a lot of readings and events. Keeps me busy, but I’d rather this than being chained to a desk.”

For Ballard, this life of traveling and reading on to go is worth it.

“Connecting with a writer with our editorial vision for a book is a lot of fun,” Ballard said. “Then making someone’s dream come true when I sell their book.”

Editing skills prove valuable in all kinds of jobs

May 3, 2018 Leave a comment

Whatever kind of journalist you aspire to be – reporter, photojournalist, designer, multimedia producer, broadcaster or editor – you’ll need to develop editing skills to succeed.

Editors work for all kinds of organizations on many different platforms (print, broadcast, Web, mobile). The goal of editing is clarity, regardless of platform. Editors help readers navigate through information by distilling messages. Editors work for small and large newspapers, broadcast outlets, magazines, book publishers and newsletters. They hold communication jobs for corporate, academic and nonprofit organizations. Editing skills are valued in public relations and advertising. Regardless of where they work, editors increasingly are responsible for work published on the Web.

Since 2011, beginning editing students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln interviewed editors from a variety of places to ask them about their jobs, their advice for journalism students and their insight into how journalism is changing. Although the editors the students chose worked in many different jobs, many editors offered similar suggestions.

Their advice included: Read all different kinds of writing, master the basics of usage and grammar, get internships and college publication experience, learn the Web and new technologies, and be open-minded about the future.

Click on the links below to read their reports:

Categories: Editor Profiles Tags: ,

As editor, Joe Veyera does it all for Seattle weekly newspaper

By William Stone
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Joe Veyera is the editor-in-chief at the Queen Anne & Magnolia News. He also doubles as the primary feature writer and photographer.

After all, he is the only one on staff.

Though the Queen Anne & Magnolia News is part of a slightly larger group of suburban Seattle papers operated by Pacific Publishing, the papers operate with a tiny staff.

When Veyera was hired by Pacific Publishing four months after he graduated from the University of Washington, three staffers, two editors and a reporter, worked across the four papers.

Veyera

Veyera has been the editor of the Queen Anne & Magnolia News for two years and during that time has had to use his full repertoire of journalism skills.

“We were all stretched pretty thin then, and that’s still the case now,” Veyera said.

Having the skills to do anything he needs to be able to is key for Veyera in his day-to-day job.

“When I was in college, I had at least one professor who was very adamant to all of us that we needed to know how to do everything. You’ve got to know how to write and take photos and record audio and do design and all that,” Veyera said. “I kind of scoffed at the idea at the time, I was like ‘What role is there where you have to do all of that all the time?’ And I found it. I found exactly the role.”

As his high school paper’s editor, Joe felt intrigued by journalism. He took that intrigue to the University of Washington where he covered news, sports, and ultimately became the editor-in-chief of the school paper. At The Daily, he had a full staff so there’s been some adjusting to do.

The Queen Anne & Magnolia News is a weekly paper, which means Veyera has to have the whole thing wrapped up on Monday so it can be published on Wednesday.

He takes Monday to lay everything out and make sure all the content is where it needs to be. He does the printing in-house so that process is relatively simple.

After Monday’s print deadline, he uses Tuesday to plan out the next edition, but usually he doesn’t get the template for the next week’s edition until Thursday or sometimes Friday so some weeks he gets Wednesday as somewhat of a day off.

Even with the slower pace of the weekly paper, Veyera acknowledges some challenges.

“There have been instances where I’ve had to rush stories out just because I need to fill the space. I have basically everything I need, but it’s not as polished as I’d like it to be,” he said. “You’ve got this 16 or 20 page paper every single week. You know it’s coming.  You have to make sure that it’s going to be filled, and sometimes that leaves you with not the best content.”

To make the content as high quality as he can, Veyera has one rule he likes to follow.

“I rarely end up doing features or profiles that are based on phone call interviews,” he said. “In general, I’ve always found it best, you know, sitting down with someone in person over coffee, for instance, ends up giving you a much better idea of who they are and what they’re trying to do or what their business is, and I think they also appreciate talking to someone in person.”

He’ll make the trek from North Seattle to the Queen Anne & Magnolia office on Thursday or Friday to check the template and start plugging the articles in.

It’s not always easy being a one-man crew, and the job wasn’t exactly what Veyera had in mind out of college. That said, he acknowledges now, it has blossomed into a position he has come to love.

“I think when I started, I might have answered differently and said I wouldn’t be there very long and then move on to the next thing,” he said. “Then when I look at the calendar and realize I’ve been there for two years, I guess that might change it a little bit. The way I’ve always looked at job openings and positions is that I’ll focus on things as they come along.”

It wasn’t his goal going into college to run The Daily, but it happened. Then he didn’t plan on having to use all the skills he learned in college but now he is.

“The chance was there and I felt ready to move into it,” he said.

For now, he’s content at the Queen Anne & Magnolia News, covering the news of suburban Seattle and boosting his presence on social media so if an unexpected opportunity arises, he’ll be prepared for it.

Web mastermind takes over the internet one headline at a time

By Camille Paddock
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Most kids at the age of 9 want to be teachers or astronauts or firefighters, but Travis Siebrass dreamt of becoming a journalist.

His parents always got the Omaha World-Herald delivered to their house, which is what he credits to his peculiar childhood dream.

Travis Siebrass

“I loved the paper and I loved Nebraska football,” Siebrass said in a phone interview. “I always wanted to be a journalist because of that.”

While it may seem like Siebrass had it all figured out, he had a hard time finding his perfect fit in the world of journalism.

He wore many hats over the span of his professional career including news, sports, print and web before finally settling down in his position as the digital editor for the Daily Herald in the Chicagoland area.

Siebrass was born and raised in Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in news editorial journalism.

A professor recommended Siebrass apply for an internship with the Daily Herald during his senior year in college. After graduating from UNL, Siebrass landed the position and only planned on staying in Chicago for the year-long internship.

But that is not how life turned out for Siebrass. When his year was up, the company offered him a full-time position, an offer he couldn’t pass up. He’s been working at the Daily Herald since.

In a typical day, Siebrass comes in around 5:30 a.m. and reads the note left by the overnight staff who have the morning articles ready. He looks over the homepage and the headlines and decides if anything needs to be changed.

“My favorite part is changing a headline and immediately watching [views] spike,” Siebrass said.

In fact, that is the big difference between print and web. On the print side, there is no way to see if your work attracted an audience, he said.

Online articles are constantly being tracked in terms of viewer engagement. This data is analyzed and changes can be made to articles and headlines in order to boost viewership. Since there is no way to track how many people actually read an article in print, web has become increasingly popular.

“I’m glad I made the move,” Siebrass said. “That’s where the future is.”

Siebrass’ advice for students is simple: He encourages all journalism students to take risks and reach out for internships.

“There is no substitute for experience,” Siebrass said. “Being out there in the real world is the best teacher of all.”

Better Homes and Gardens senior editor started as an apprentice

By Brooke Wrage
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

As a first-generation college student, Rachel Haugo switched her undergraduate major five times.

Haugo wanted to find something she loved.

She explored graphic design, anesthesiology, accounting, advertising, and finally settled for journalism with a magazine emphasis.

She doesn’t regret it.

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Rachel Haugo, senior editor for Better Homes and Gardens at Meredith Corp. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Haugo)

Haugo is more than 10 years out of college and still works at the same corporation she got her first job at after college. She found her place at Meredith Corp. after being a part of its apprenticeship program during her senior year at Iowa State University.

“Any time I feel like I kind of plateaued in a position, there’s always been something else that’s come up,” Haugo said in a phone interview. “It’s just been a really good experience. Meredith really does feel like home to me.”

She grew up in North Dakota and attended high school in Plymouth, Minnesota, where her high school yearbook teacher inspired her to attend Iowa State University and become a Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Her yearbook experience doesn’t fall far from her job as the senior editor for the Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

“I would say my job right now is almost like yearbook for adults,” Haugo said.

Technology is Haugo’s biggest challenge because it is constantly changing and improving. Haugo works to adapt to whatever the new trend is and tries to grasp an understanding of how it works.

As a media company, Meredith Corp. taps into the popular media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.

Haugo argues a place for magazines will still exist in the future because of the value and opportunities of digital content.

Haugo is excited to see where she will be in 10 years but does not have a plan sketched out. She strives to find what is best for herself at a given time.

“I think being fluid and able to adapt is just vital to the profession, ” Haugo said. “I think it’s just a matter of evolving with technology and revolving with the field.”

She is proud that she has found opportunities to grow personally and professionally within the same organization.

Haugo has worked for Meredith Corp. as a senior editor, lifestyle editor, producer and an associate editor. She has experience editing content for online and print.

A typical day for Haugo begins at 9 a.m. with a meeting and then varies from overseeing video or photoshoots to attending other meetings. Her team consists of six members who work with a lot of how-to content and how-to writing.

To be efficient editors, Haugo’s team collaborates and often recreates how-to projects to ensure they are able to write clear descriptions.

“How-to writing is kind of an art of itself, versus pretty magazine story writing. It’s just different, and you have to be very precise because when we’re not precise, we get a lot of reader questions,” Haugo said. “So we try to think about potential questions before we receive them.”

Outside of work, Haugo is a volunteer academic adviser for Kappa Kappa Gamma at Iowa State University. With Kappa, she is also on the editorial board for The Key magazine.

Haugo’s advice for students is to put effort into yourself, make connections and learn about what other people do.

Haugo believes every experience is one that shapes you into a better person and helps you to grow and become a well-rounded employee.

“You get out what you put in, and I really feel strongly that if you are interested in a certain area you really have to put that upon yourself to develop it,” Haugo said. “No one is going to develop you, you have to develop yourself.”

Vincent Tuss’ journey to becoming an editor started with an internship

December 12, 2017 Leave a comment

by Monica Uzpen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

International relations isn’t a traditional major for journalists, but don’t tell Vincent Tuss that.

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Vincent Tuss, night homepage producer at the Star Tribune

Vincent Tuss, night homepage producer at the Star Tribune and professional copy editor, said international relations is all about helping people connect with and understand each other, which is a big part of what journalists do.

Throughout his career, he has been doing just that.

Tuss received his bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in 1994. Afterwards, he won the Dow Jones News Fund internship, worked as a copy editor for many publications, joined ACES: the Society for Editing and finally landed a job at the Star Tribune. But he was interested in journalism far before crossing his graduation stage.

“I was thinking about doing it in high school, but the timing didn’t work out,” Tuss said.

His interest came from reading The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, his hometown papers, which Tuss said were big and vibrant with lots of personality. It would take him until his senior year in college to act on this interest and join his college paper.

After that the rest is history. Literally history.

After he graduated, the Cold War made jobs in international relations hard to get, and Tuss knew he had what it took to be a journalist, so he accepted a Dow Jones internship, which places students in internships across the country after they take a highly competitive editing test.

That internship was like a two-week boot camp. Taught by a former Marine and journalism professor, the program had Tuss taking spelling and geography tests too difficult to pass.

“The idea was not so much that you had to learn everything, but to make you realize what you didn’t know, which is a lot.”

After the internship, Tuss pursued a career in sports journalism, which he always had a passion for. He started out covering women’s soccer and eventually worked his way up to men’s basketball, but soon realized everyone wanted to do sports and that there was little room in that industry. That’s when he realized he’d be great at editing.

“The more I did it, the more I liked it, the more I thought I was good at it.”

Now, he works as a night homepage producer at the Star Tribune, using all the experience he gained from editing. The biggest challenge? Trying to fill in the gap of what can make a story and what can’t.

And of course, trying to get everyone on the same page to fill that gap.

Tuss said that it’s especially difficult at night because the discussion of what to put in and leave out of the paper already happened. But Tuss also understands the importance of working with other people and communication.

“As much as we like to put a name on a story, it’s all a cooperative effort.”

The culture of his workplace is shifting to help make communication easier. The layout of his office, which he called The Hub, has changed to make the workplace more collaborative. Small innovations like this are just the tip of the iceberg in a changing field like journalism.

To keep up with the changes, Tuss recommends that aspiring journalists stay curious. Keep learning because you don’t know where the industry will be in two years, let alone 10.

But you don’t just have to look to the future to improve your skills. Tuss said that he wished he focussed more on writing, as well as other basic skills.

“You’re a better editor if you’re a writer and you’re a better writer if you’re an editor.”