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Editing skills prove valuable in all kinds of jobs

December 11, 2016 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:

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Categories: editing, finals Tags: ,

Alternative Press editor stresses the importance of an online presence

Alternative Press is a monthly music magazine in Cleveland. Editor-in-Chief Jason Pettigrew got his start at Alternative Press when at a concert he picked up a copy of the then-free magazine and saw that the founder, Mike Shea, wrote a review on musician Peter Murphy.

A few days after the show, Pettigrew called Shea asking him why he was disrespecting Murphy.  Shea responded with: “Well you think you can do better?” Pettigrew then started work at Alternative Press doing freelance writing.

He did mostly album reviews and the occasional feature until 1992 when the senior editor left and Pettigrew was promoted to editor-in-chief.

In a phone interview, Pettigrew gave future journalists his advice and opinion on the future of Alternative Press.

Alternative Press editor-in-chief Jason Pettigrew (photo courtesy of altpress.com)

Alternative Press Editor-in-Chief Jason Pettigrew (Photo courtesy of altpress.com)

Before Pettigrew worked at Alternative Press, he worked as a record store clerk. Although he went to school at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg and majored in English, he was always interested in music journalism.

“I’ve always been interested in how bands work, but I  don’t play anything.  There’s this saying: ‘Pettigrew should go learn an instrument and start a band, but the best thing he knows how to play is the  phonograph,’” Pettigrew said.

In the ever-changing world of journalism, many things have changed at Alternative Press since Pettigrew became editor.
“There’s now a regular 24/7 news cycle, which has changed everything. You can’t break a lot of news anymore because the Internet is so immediate. Just saying ‘Band has new album’  isn’t a good story angle anymore. The album will leak and you’ll have to find something to talk about because readers won’t care about your opinion when they’ve already heard the album,” Pettigrew said.

There are some things that will never change in the magazine industry, he said.

“There’s still people who want to control every aspect of what you do whether it be a manager, record label, or even a band member trying to make everything pretty for themselves and ignoring when something bad or questionable or perceived as career-destroying happens. Control is always an issue that plagues this line of business and that won’t ever change,” Pettigrew said.

Social media has had a huge effect on how journalism has evolved since the invention of the Internet. Social media can be an important tool for journalists to help get an audience, get traffic to their website and promote their work.

“You’d be surprised at how many old-school  newspaper reporters recoiled at the thought of getting a Twitter or Facebook account. It’s very important because a lot of writers and editors want to see their content. You want to get the word out on what you’re working on and get attention to it. You need to create a personality so people know where to go to,” Pettigrew said.

The 24/7 news cycle has changed the way that journalists work and has changed the way the newsrooms work.

“The 24/7 news cycle has made people exhausted. It requires constant updates because the stories aren’t set in stone. There’s constant updates and frequent updates, which makes a lot more room for error than ever before. You have to be on your toes more than ever before,” Pettigrew said.

With that 24/7 news cycle, there’s also been an effect on accuracy.

“Because of the Internet, there’s been a rise of citizen journalists. They’re just heavy on opinion and short on facts, but I guess it’s just the Internet. The Internet is a great democratizing thing where everyone can talk, but everyone talks at the same time and it’s just static. There needs to be some sort of voice of reason. I can’t think of anything more inept than a series of comments after a YouTube video,” Pettigrew said.
With many publications switching mainly to digital and having a harder time getting funding for print, one wonders if the future of Alternative Press is digital.

“We get a lot of subscribers that like the tangible thing. I think there’s people who collect the magazines and like the cool pictures. Magazines and comic books are still that type of thing that you want in your hands. There are those people that will scan all the pages to put up on the Internet for everyone to see. I think it will be interesting to see what will happen next. There is a possibility we could go exclusively digital, but I think there’s still the people that like the tangible thing. It’s a hard one to call,” Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew had this advice for future journalists and editors.

“Think about the level of commitment you want to give to what you do. Maybe you’re like, ‘Well, I want to give 50 or 20 percent of my life to this.’ Now think about the level of commitment you can manage if you gave twice that amount. The 24/7 news cycle now allows you to work 17 hours a day. If something happens at 3 a.m., you have to be ready to go,” Pettigrew said. “If you genuinely feel you can dedicate more than a normal job would allow you to then by all means do it, but be prepared because it is 24/7 now.”

Photo editor manages demanding work week, still able to watch sunrise

May 2, 2015 Leave a comment
Jeff Bundy, Director of Photography, Omaha World-Herald, photo courtesy of Jeff Bundy

Jeff Bundy, director of photography, Omaha World-Herald, (Photo courtesy of Jeff Bundy)

By Madison Nabity
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A job title in the newsroom is not always as it seems. No one knows this better than Jeff Bundy, the director of photography at the Omaha World-Herald. His responsibilities on the job are constantly changing.

Bundy oversees the paper’s use of photographs, its online and radio operations, and its video production. He even spends time on the corporate side of the business, often dealing with the paper’s budget and finances.

With so much on his plate, Bundy rarely has time to take pictures of his own anymore. Yet, photography remains something that has sparked his curiosity since he developed photos in his parents’ dark room in the basement of his childhood home.

“I was interested in photography at a very young age,” Bundy said in a phone interview. “I was shooting pictures when I was in grade school, and throughout high school.”

As a student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, he worked as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press while majoring in English and world religion. His career at the Omaha World-Herald began in February 1990, three years before he had graduated from college.

Through the years, Bundy’s role as the director of photography has changed with the growing online presence of the World-Herald. These days, he is in charge of 12 visual journalists, who deal with both video and photographs for the World-Herald. Bundy takes pride in helping them as journalists in a variety of ways. He delegates both in-state and out-of-state assignments, gives constructive criticism and advice, and organizes meetings to keep everyone on the same page.

“There’s a lot of hours, but it is all so that I can put my staff in the best possible situations to make great photos for the paper,” Bundy said. “People have strengths and weaknesses and you need to play people’s strengths and put them in situations where they can succeed and there are opportunities to learn.”

He also constantly looks to challenge his journalists, sometimes going out of his way to do so.

“If you never challenge people professionally, they will never get better and be happy with their craft,” Bundy said. “I challenge them by making them go out of their comfort zone.”

Bundy does all he can to help his staff be the best they can be. He talks them through assignments and after they have finished the assignment he will touch base to see what happened and whether the assignment met the expectations that he wanted.

“When you are talking through with the person that was on the assignment, it’s not why didn’t you do this, it is what could we have done to make the situation better,” Bundy said.

Despite a job that often keeps him busy for 10 hours a day, he still finds time to compete with his three Labradors in the American Kennel Club hunt tests and field trials. His favorite thing to hunt with his Labradors is waterfowl, both ducks and geese.

“You sit in a blind with your friends and you visit, watch the sun come up and listen to the water run by, and let your brain relax,” Bundy said.

And for a man as busy as Bundy, that might be exactly what he needs after a hectic week in the newsroom.

Editor Linda Persigehl wears many hats

January 9, 2014 1 comment

By Michaela Noble
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

To Linda Persigehl, success in life and in a career has everything to do with how many hats one wears.

Linda Persigehl

In her case, “hats” doesn’t refer to an article of clothing worn to make a fashion statement, but rather the wide range of responsibilities and tasks expected of an editor.

Persigehl worked as the managing editor for Omaha Magazine for a little over five years.

Being a managing editor meant mostly relegating people and managing the magazine, she said. She chose writers for assignments, came up with stories, found sources, and then, at last, proofread the stories she was given.

“I had an impact because of how many hats I wore,” Persigehl said. “This job works way better with collaboration.”

Even something as simple as reading an article was a 3-step system for Persigehl.

First, she would read the story for content, making sure it answered the important questions. The second step was checking its continuity. Finally, Persigehl would read the story for its grammatical correctness, sometimes throwing back questions for the writer to consider.

Her work was not over after sending a story back for revisions, though.

“After stories got back to me revised, I would work with the art director and photographer to see how to illustrate each story,” Persigehl said. “People are visual, so even with a fantastic story people want an image and that emotion.”

It was because Persigehl was so dedicated to doing each of her many jobs right that she ended up leaving the magazine, and her permanent mark on it, after more than five years.

The magazine took off when the economy charged back up, Persigehl explained, making her job as an editor even more demanding.

“It was a great thing, but that meant more editorial content.” Persigehl said. “I was doing more work, and it had to be done faster.”

She said it was a testament to the magazine that it has grown so much, and that its growth shows that editing jobs aren’t going away—in fact, quite the opposite.

“They [Editors] are asked to take on the social media aspect…. an expanding thing that will only help magazines,” Persigehl said.

Reflecting on her time as an editor, Persigehl said there were parts that were difficult.

“Managing people, managing my time, and once in a while knowing when to push the envelope,” Persigehl said of her hardest tasks.

But there were also aspects of being an editor that she loved.

According to Persigehl, her job was never tedious because she got to go out and do things; she worked in a small place and got to learn new things every day.

Persigehl said she is looking forward to getting back to her writing, possibly as a freelancer for Omaha Magazine and other publications.

When asked about advice that she would give to students looking into an editing career, Persigehl said it is important to have passion and showcase it.

She paused for a moment, thinking.

“You can sell your personality and attitude even without experience,” Persigehl said in an afterthought.

She also wanted to capitalize on what she deemed the power of print.

“If you read it, you believe it,” Persigehl said.

“It has a lot of power, and it can do so much good.”

UNL graduate begins a promising editing career in Omaha

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

By: Michael Stanek
University of Nebraska- Lincoln 

Sarah McCallister didn’t realize when she walked into her high school journalism class on the first day of school it was the beginning of a career path.

REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD

Sarah McCallister, copy editor at The Omaha World-Herald (photo courtesy of Rebecca S. Gratz)

Fast forward a few years and McCallister would find herself in the jouranlism college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  It was there she decided to enroll in basic editing and joined the Daily Nebraskan newspaper.

“At first I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I had an older sister that was in broadcasting so that led me to the J-school.  I enrolled in basic editing as a sophomore.  Then I found that writing came easy to me,” she said.

McCallister stayed active at her newspaper and in the journalism school.  She graduated in 2011 and was hired as a copy editor for the Omaha World-Herald.

McCallister works five to six days a week 4 p.m to 1 a.m.

In charge of the Midlands section, McCallister deals with all local stories.  The section front holds four to five different stories on average, all varying in content and style.  She proofreads material for errors in grammar and format.  She also works with a team of editors in page layout and design.

“I pretty much work with everybody in the newsroom,” she said.  “Our jobs are usually determined by what needs to be done.  I help edit the cover page two days a week and I edit the website once a week.  I also write headlines for the stories I’m editing if they don’t already have one.”

With all of the editing responsibility, there is a lot of pressure on McCallister to make sure everything is perfect.

“One of the hardest parts about being a copy editor in the newsroom is that you’re invisible until you make a mistake,” she said.

There is a constant pressure that makes McCallister’s job one of the most difficult in the newsroom.  However, that pressure is also the thing that pushes her to do the best work possible every time.

The path for a young copy editor is a long one.  McCallister hopes to work her way up at the World-Herald, and perhaps to larger news organizations.

The work is hard and time-consumin,g but it’s what she loves and where she is beginning a promising career as an editor.

Communications firm partner strives for perfection in editing

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment

By Caitlin Hassler                                                                                                       University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mary Fastenau‘s life seems perfect. She lives in paradise – Honolulu, Hawaii. She is a partner in a successful advertising agency. And she adores her employees.

Perfection, after all, is what she is after, whether it is in the proposals for new business, presentations for clients or the marketing materials created by her staff. Fastenau is always on the lookout for mistakes and slip-ups.

Fastenau is the principal of Anthology Marketing Group, the largest communications company in Hawaii. Anthology Marketing Group has a large client list, including Microsoft, Marriott and Bank of Hawaii.

Mary Fastenau, the Principal of Anthology Marketing Group

Mary Fastenau, the principal of Anthology Marketing Group

Fastenau didn’t start her career in the advertising business, but began as a reporter. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1980, the Bertrand, Neb., native’s first job was as a reporter for the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier, a Gannett newspaper. She then moved into marketing positions, first at the Lafayette paper and then at the Marin Independent, another Gannett paper in Marin County, Calif.

In 1989, she moved to Hawaii, where she began her career at Anthology.  In 1996, she received a master’s in business administration from the University of Hawaii. Then she launched the interactive division of Anthology and became a partner.

Editing has helped her achieve perfection in her industry.

“One of the reasons that people have told us many times why we actually get new business is because of our proposals,” she said. At first, she was perplexed by the comments, but then she looked at the proposals from the competing agencies.

“They just are edited horribly, and it doesn’t inspire confidence,” she said.

Fastenau hires good editors and writers. “There’s always going to be a need for someone who is awesome with grammar,” she said. But it’s more than just the grammar rules. It’s about the logic. And by logic, she means that the writing has to make sense to everyone.

Writers and editors also need to be conscious about using jargon.

Eliminating jargon helped Anthology land a big client, she said. Anthology was working with another agency to land the account, but when Fastenau saw the proposal, she was shocked.

“It was so filled with jargon that it didn’t make sense. And I understood the jargon,” she said.

She believes that if she had not edited out the tech jargon in the proposal, Anthology and the other firm would not have landed the national client.

Although Fastenau is always reaching for perfection, she has missed the mark. Once or twice.

There was a case where the client went with another agency. Fastenau called the client to ask why.  The client replied that they needed a community college and Anthology gave them Harvard.

“That was an editing lesson for me — to know my audience,” she said.

The Internet has allowed for a vast growth in communications, including advertising to diverse audiences. But the Internet has also changed how reporters and advertisers need to view their audiences.

“If you’re writing for a newspaper today, it’s going to be on the Internet and your audience could be anybody,” she said.

The communications industry has to be conscious of multicultural audiences. For example, Fastenau worked on a campaign for a Japanese firm. The campaign featured a play on words that non-native English speakers did not understand.

“Language is so critical, but it has to be clear,” she said.

With the flashing lure of technology, people are no longer taking the time to pay attention to the intricate details of an ad. The old-style play on words has to be substituted for a more direct and clear approach, she said.

Fastenau also thinks that the Internet is creating a new field for editors.

“I think that the big thing that editing is a component of is something I call information design,” she said. Information design is the combination of content creation and content curation, she explained.

“There are so many sources of content, there has got to be somebody, an editor, to archive it all.” This information designer would archive, organize and edit content on the Internet. For example, if the information designer was archiving content for a business, he or she would archive it in a manner that it matches company policy.

Regardless of changes in the editing field, perfection remains essential in the field of communications, she stressed. If there is a typo in an ad in Vogue or a mistake in The New York Times, the credibility of those publications drops, despite their prestige. The same can be said about the Internet.

“Any time you’re editing anything on the Internet, the minute there is a typo, your credibility diminishes,” she said. “In the agency business, they pay us to be perfect.”

Social media helps link cowgirls to their dream magazine

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment

By Emily Taylor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Thea Dreisbach is a founder of Dirt Road Daughters magazine.

Thea Dreisbach is a founder of Dirt Road Daughters Magazine.

Dirt Road Daughters Magazine was created because of Twitter.

On the social networking site, Thea Driesbach met a group of like-minded woman, who shared a passion for a Western lifestyle, and the idea of a publication was hatched. Its website describes the publication this way: “It’s a new fashion and lifestyle publication for today’s daring generation of country girls currently enabling a sisterhood of cowgirl spirit & dirt road souls.”

Driesbach, who lives in New Mexico, manages to balance her full-time job as a CEO of a non-profit organization, ranching and editing the magazine. It’s published online and has a quarterly print edition.  Her passion for Western life has led to a successful magazine and new friendships across the country as well.

In an email interview, she answered questions about her life, career and hobbies.

Q. Where did you attend college and what was your major?

A. I attended the University of Idaho and have two bachelor’s of science (degrees), the first in 2001 in business with a major in accounting and the second in 2003 in communications with a major in journalism and mass communications.

Q. How did you become interested in journalism?

A. I have always loved magazines and have a bachelor’s degree in journalism so it seemed like a great idea to start a magazine as a side project with some like-minded women.

Q. What other jobs have you had?

A. I am currently the CEO of a nonprofit organization; prior to that I worked with the New Mexico State Fair.

Q. Who thought of the idea of creating this magazine and why?

A. A few cowgirls, I had only met on Twitter, and myself came up with the idea for DRDM. We wanted to create a publication that would foster a sisterhood of women like us – women living a rural/Western/agricultural life in a modern world.

Q. Could you give me a brief overview of your typical day in your job?

A. I work on DRDM on the evenings and weekends when I’m not at my “real” full-time job.

Q. How do you balance your other job along with this job?

A. It’s rough.  I try to set aside dedicated time for DRDM work on weekday evenings and on the weekend.  I try and make it a specific time so that it doesn’t eat too much into my personal life.  I also don’t do DRDM work while at my full-time job.  I may update Facebook or answer an email, but while I’m at my full-time job, my full focus needs to be there.

Q. What role does editing play in your job?

A. The editor team works together to read and edit the submissions our contributors provide.  We find the best strategy is for several people to read each submission to catch any typos and ensure the voice of the piece fits well with the publication as a whole.

Q. What is the most difficult part of editing for you?

A. Editing an article in a way that makes it clear and concise, but doesn’t alter the voice of the writer in any way is the most difficult part of editing in my experience.

Q. What is the worst part of your job?

A. It is high stress meeting the deadlines.

Q. What is one of your perks of having your job?

A. I love having the opportunity to work (with) talented women from across the country that I otherwise probably wouldn’t get to know.

Q. What is something that makes you look forward to this job?

A. I love getting the feedback from our readers when we complete a new issue and they love it as much as we do.

Q. Do you have a life outside of the office?

A. I do! I spend a lot of time working on the ranch, riding my horses and enjoying my time outside of the office.

 Q. What advice do you have for students who want to have a similar job?

A. For those interested in really working in the industry I would recommend not taking the road I have!  There has been a steep learning curve in starting a publication with no industry background.  It’s been a learning experience and a ton of fun, but we are all working on this as a side project and it’s not our full-time career.

Q. What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you because of your job?

A. I had the opportunity to attend the Dallas Market this spring along with another member of the editorial team.  It was special to get a sneak peek at all the newest Western fashion before it ever hit the stores.

Q. What is the most enjoyable part of editing for you?

A. The most enjoyable part of editing would have to be having the opportunity to feel like I am meeting new friends through their articles and columns.

Q. How do you feel about the current trend of going away from print production and more Web-based when it comes to publications?

A.I love it! I feel like print publications will always be viable because reading a magazine is an experience. I love the feel of glossy pages and being able to pull out articles and photos and put them up to inspire me.  At the same time, having the opportunity to deepen the relationship we have with our readers makes online engagement essential. We can share more, get feedback and truly focus on our mission to foster a sisterhood of cowgirl spirit and dirt road souls.

Q. Who is your idol and why?

A. I had an amazing mentor while working at the New Mexico State Fair. She had handled the marketing and sponsorship for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for many, many years.  She was so confident and sure of herself, and with good reason. She was a wealth of knowledge and I learned a lot from her!

A quick note about Dirt Road Daughters Magazine: DRDM is a magazine that is a side project developed and coordinated by a group of women with a common interest in the western/rural lifestyle and building a community around that sisterhood.  None of the writers or editorial team are paid for their work.  All revenue generated from advertising or subscription goes into printing and promotion of the publication.