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Kate Schwing was a DJNF/Temple editing intern at The New York Times News Service in 2005. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where she served as the sleep-deprived copy desk chief at The Daily Tar Heel), she spent a summer as a copy desk intern
at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After sampling what the East Coast and the Midwest had to offer, she moved to Colorado in September 2006 and got a job at The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo.


Until April 7, I was confident I would weather the storms of the journalism
industry.

My boss called me over the weekend and asked me to come in an hour and a
half early that Monday. Sometimes editors at the G work a midshift, coming
in early to edit copy for both the day and night desks. I found no cause for
concern there.

As I was driving back down a mountain Monday morning after a weekend of
skiing, I started getting text messages from my co-workers. “Layoffs today.”
“We’re not sure how many.” Being neither the most recent hire nor the
highest paid on the desk, I figured I was safe.

When I got to the office and my boss was waiting outside for me, that’s when
the warning bells went off. They didn’t even let me go up to the news room to
clear out my drawer.

I was laid off from my first job out of school. I’m not even 25.

The only good thing about it was the timing. I got laid off three days
before the American Copy Editors Society descended on Denver for its 12th
annual national conference. I had been planning to attend as many sessions
as possible before driving home to work the desk; now at least I could spend
more time with fellow journalists.

Even though I got some good leads at the conference, I panicked when I got
home. I polished my resume and started sending out clips in a frenzy. I
applied at Whole Foods. I knew that while my severance pay looked fat and
happy in my bank account for the time being, there wasn’t any more coming
in.

I got some interest from that flurry of activity and got asked to take
editing tests, but it seemed that just before I got to the interview stage
in the process, the paper in question entered a hiring freeze. Discouraging,
to say the least.

My problems were solved when someone on The Gazette’s copy desk decided to
bail on journalism in favor of PR. I was the first person they called to
fill that opening, what with my being trained and having not yet left town.
I was unemployed from April 7 to June 2. I got to keep my severance pay and
my old chair.

From my own experience looking in the job market and from watching friends
dive into their own searches at the end of their internships, I know there
are jobs out there for skilled editors. They might not be in places where
you can see yourself living in the long term. But they might be places small
enough where you can make a difference, stand out and gain valuable
experience editing a wide variety of material. Plus, you’ll gather all kinds
of crazy stories from “that year (or six months, or what have you) I lived
in West Texas,” or something of the sort. Don’t be afraid to have an
adventure, to do something unfamiliar, to go somewhere new. Keep those big
papers in your sights, but remember that doing outstanding work at a smaller
place can help get you there.

Also: Make yourself as valuable and desirable as you can. Ask about
opportunities at your internships. Learn different software. Learn Web.
Learn design. Read whatever you can get your hands on. We’ve all got to
multitask.

It’s a difficult market, but we’re important. Keep your heads up.

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3 Comments

  1. You go, Katie! 🙂 You’re a rockstar.

  2. Yay Katie! Thanks for the job market inspiration 🙂

  3. Thanks for this encouraging post. I’m thinking of a career shift to media/journalism while it’s on its laying-off pace. Is it a good idea still?


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