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I am the city editor for a small newspaper in Western New York. Although I’ve had other jobs with the company I work for, I’ve only held this position for about a year and a half.
My primary job duties are to proofread news stories and edit the copy to ensure that everything is spelled correctly and makes sense to the readers. The more satisfying part of my job requires me to work one-on-one with reporters at the paper to make the story concepts better before they ever start writing.
As with any job, there are rewarding days and frustrating days. On the rewarding days, I absolutely love my job and would rate it at the top of any scale I was given. On the frustrating days, I dream of a career in the pizza delivery industry. Typically, the days that don’t go as well have a lot more to do with technology and equipment failure than with the people I work with. The people are always the best part of the job.
Should you be an editor?
I’m not sure if editing is what I’m supposed to do, per se, but I definitely feel like I make a difference in the world, which — in all honesty — is all I want in my career. There are a lot of days where we simply publish what happened. Those days are okay. There are some days when we open people’s eyes. Those days are phenomenal. On those days, I really feel like I’m doing what I was born to do.
I’ve worked for the company I’m currently working for most of my life — as a paper carrier, newsroom intern, district manager, intern again, district manager again, cub reporter, copy editor, page designer, columnist, and now as an editor. Somewhere in the middle, I was a talk show host for seven years.
While my employer requires a four-year degree in journalism, in truth all the job really needs is someone who can spell and think critically. As a result, I have a degree in journalism and a whole lot of debt. It’s often frustrating to think that I probably could have four more years of experience and a whole lot less debt than I do, but it’s part of the process. If you want to work in a newsroom, you have to go to school.
As enjoyable as the job can be, sometimes it’s frustrating to be reminded that there are limitations to what you can do in the media. Knowing something to be true isn’t enough – you have to be able to illustrate it. That gap can often be wide, sometimes too wide to cross.
I imagine it’s not all that dissimilar from police officers who know that criminals are up to no good, but can’t arrest them without “proof.” And yes, just like police officers consider themselves to be the good guys, I consider myself to be one of the good guys, too.
One of the oddities about working in the media is being recognized everywhere you go. It’s tough to get away with anything — like going to the grocery store in your pajamas.
The job comes with a lot of stress. It isn’t something you can do eight hours a day and then not think about later. In fact, I tell people that it’s not a job — it’s a lifestyle. You have to always be on the lookout for story ideas and thinking about how something affects something else. It can be truly nerve-wracking.
People assume I make more than I do — a lot more. My salary is in the low $30,000 range. That isn’t atypical for the industry, although there are certainly people who make more doing the same job. I certainly feel like I deserve to make more, but it’s hard to find anything comparable paying enough more to make the leap worth it.
Technically, I have two weeks of vacation per year. However, I also have four weeks of unpaid furlough that I’m required to take — as is everyone in my company. I’ve convinced myself that I get six weeks vacation. In my head, that seems like a decent tradeoff for the low salary.
I’ve never suggested that someone go into journalism, and I never would, but I don’t typically dissuade it, either. In fact, my daughter wants to be a writer and I offer her nothing but encouragement. It isn’t a job for everyone, but those than can live with the pitfalls and understand that they’re probably never going to get rich can find it to be very rewarding. I enjoy the field of journalism greatly. I hope to do it as long as I can. Five years from now I hope to be doing the same thing — just for more money. What do you think now? Should you be an editor? Leave your opinion in the comments.
Editor image from Stockvault