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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Claire Craft, DJNF/Temple 2008 and a recent Virginia Tech graduate, worked this past summer as an editing intern with The New York Times News Service. In the blog entry below, Claire writes about The Hunt and efforts to find what she considers to be the right job for her. Claire also shares what she learned along the way as well as how she is approaching her new editing job with The Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia.

I left New York City on September 1. Since my internship had ended August 8, I had been working a few shifts a week at the News Service, while focusing the rest of my energy on The Hunt. The Job Hunt. I thought a lot about staying in New York and looking for a couple of freelance or part-time editing jobs, but really wanted something full time. So I headed back down to Virginia to scope things out. I scoured job postings online and mailed out packets of my clips to newspapers anywhere and everywhere. Responses started to trickle back in, and in between “We’re no longer hiring,” and “We’re looking for someone with at least five years of experience,” I got a couple of hits. I talked to some editors about their openings in North Carolina and Alabama. I toyed with the idea of going overseas. I kept up with my fellow ‘chess clubbers’ from Temple, and we traded interview stories and wondered where we would all be six months down the road.

I was still in New York when I first heard that The Roanoke Times had openings on the copy desk. Having grown up in Roanoke and having been a regular Roanoke Times breakfast-table-reader since junior high, I was immediately interested. I filled out an application and went in for an interview in September. The interview was long and nerve-wracking, but it gave me a chance to see the way they work and if the paper would be a good fit for me. (At least one of the people who interviewed me said he had read our blog!)

After my interview, the waiting began. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long; I got a job at The Roanoke Times on October 1 and started there two weeks later. Everything I learned at Temple Boot Camp and at The New York Times has helped me make a smooth transition. Everyone on the copy desk in Roanoke has been so welcoming to me – it is a real ‘team’ environment and a fun place to work. One of the copy editors who I met during my interview trained me during my first week here. He has been a wonderful mentor and has helped me beef up my headline writing.

With so many papers announcing layoffs, it is exciting to be at a paper where the opposite is happening. Two new page designers started on the copy desk in September, and one more copy editor will be hired later on this fall. With the unstable economy and layoffs, it would be easy just to be satisfied with any job. I am so thankful to have a job that I really wanted and one where I feel like I am a valued employee. During my interview, I talked about wanting to expand my skill set, and it was exciting to hear that is a priority at The Roanoke Times. There will be opportunities for me to do page design and expand into multimedia. My supervisor has said she wants to prepare me for my next job – wherever that may be.

The Hunt is over for now. It was frustrating at times, but I knew the job I wanted was out there – somewhere. If you’re still looking, keep at it. When you find the one you want, it will be worth it. As they say, find a job you enjoy, and you won’t work another day in your life.

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Jeff Botti is associate vice president of corporate communications for
Nationwide, a large insurance and financial services company based in
Columbus, Ohio. He was in the 1979 editing class at Temple, working at the
Providence Journal. He holds a B.A. degree in journalism from The Ohio
State University. After graduation, he worked on the copy desk of the
Columbus Dispatch before moving into media relations with Battelle
Memorial Institute
and Ohio State University Medical Center. At
Nationwide, he recently led his staff to two national awards from the
Public Relations Society of America

I’m a defector. I’m not proud of it, but there’s no delicate way to say it.

So many of the others contributing to this blog have gone on to great things in the news business. And even though I love the news business and I love to communicate (just ask my wife who’s tired of listening), I jumped ship to corporate media relations after a year as a copy editor. My career has since taken me to a large private research institute, a major university hospital, and for the last 22 years, a Fortune 100 financial services company.

There were several reasons for my defection, but they are immaterial to this discussion. What I’ve learned is that communications and journalistic skills can be applied to, and in fact are necessary in, every profession. Despite the sad and sobering trends in newsroom cutbacks across the country, the need for effective communicators has never been greater. Read More »

After four years reporting for The Arizona Daily Star, Shelley Shelton recently was promoted back to the same office where she began. Now, and in addition to reporting, she copy edits one of the paper’s regional sections and is convinced that having multiple skill sets is the key to survival in print journalism.

In oranges and women, courage is often mistaken for insanity. Iron Jawed Angels

When I went through Temple in 2004, I was finally finishing my college career as a “non-traditional” student. I was graduating 10 years later than originally anticipated (having taken a large chunk of time off) and by then was a single mom with an 8-year-old. Even so, moving across the country for my training and internship that summer was a no-brainer.

The Dow Jones program is known throughout the newspaper industry. It’s a highly selective program and therefore automatically bestows respect for those who have been through it. Dow Jones interns have a certain affinity for each other when they meet in newsrooms later in life. It’s sort of like the nerdiest fraternity or sorority you could imagine–with the sole focus being on knowing minute details that other people don’t know, so you can make sure stories are accurate.

When I completed my internship at the end of summer 2004, I returned to my home in Tucson, Ariz. and began looking for any kind of local journalism job. I was nervous about being 10 years older than most others entering the workforce, with no more journalism experience to show for it. As luck would have it, about a month later I landed a reporting gig at The Arizona Daily Star, which is Tucson’s main daily newspaper. I have no doubt that listing “The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Intern” at the top of my resume was key to my getting the job. Read More »

Cynthia Hernandez of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, DJNF/Temple 2007 and the University of Kansas, slots stories and photos onto six pages for the paper’s Metro section. While her time at Temple helped hone editing skills, the busy schedule also helped  prepare her to deal with having to edit and layout pages every night.  Following are some of her thoughts on the longer-term benefits of the two-week editing residency prior to the beginning of her internship at The New York Times.

I feel extraordinarily lucky that I was able to come out of my 2007 Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship and have a job waiting for me. I’m a copy editor at the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser — a paper I was fortunate enough to be an intern for in 2006.

My job perhaps isn’t as frantic as my fellow DJNFer Adam Manzor, with his hundreds of immediately-published headlines that need to be flawless first time out, but it keeps me busy. And with the shape of the industry and the economy being what it is, a shrinking desk with growing responsibilities has served to make each day a little more hectic.

While I occasionally moonlight as the copy editor/paginator for the local section, my main responsibility has been the state/wire section. It used to just be wire, but then there was that whole shrinking desk thing.

So, generally, I go in and start scouring the AP wires for good things to fill our Nation/World page (four full stories — most with art — and at least 10 briefs or things that can be made into briefs — one with art) and any inside pages that may exist. When the afternoon budget meeting is over, our slot editor tells me what’s going on the state front. There’s usually a local story and a wire story or two that Our Fearless Leaders want on the page and then I can fill the rest of the space however I please, as long as it’s state-related.

I spend the next seven and a half hours pulling more stories and finding art, whacking away at my Nat/World briefs package, editing the main bars, writing cutlines and headlines, talking with assigning editors about questions on local stories, updating stories when write-throughs come over the wires, and fighting to make it all fit on the pages without the layout looking the same as in recent days. And somewhere in there I find time to proof pages for the other sections.

I love it. Read More »

Under the headline “What My Copy Editor Taught Me,” Dorothy Gallagher’s essay appears on Page 35 of The New York Times Book Review for September 28, 2008. Gallagher writes books … and knows about copy editors and their importance.

In her essay, she writes about Helene Pleasants, a copy editor, who recently died at 93: “Helene had no literary theories—she had literary values. She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader; good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later (Pleasants and Gallagher met when Gallagher was hired as a junior editor at Redbook magazine), I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own.”

Helene Pleasants grew up in Maryland. After high school she went to work, according to Gallagher, first as an intern, later as a reporter at the Hudson Dispatch in Union City, New Jersey. During World War II she worked for PM in New York City. In 1945 she wrote and edited for Voice of America … and some of this time was spent in China and India. In l951 Helene was accused of being sympathetic to Communism. Two years later she lost her job at VOA. She eventually moved on to Male, a men’s adventure magazine, and then Pageant. Gallagher writes that Helene, regardless of where she worked, maintained her professional focus: “… a sentence is a sentence, a piece of writing has a job to do.”

Redbook came later … and she worked there until she retired.

Gallagher continues her homage to Helene Pleasants with the following: “What Helene taught me I can’t unlearn, any more than I can unlearn how to swim.” For a writer to work with Helene, or someone just like her, it meant having “ … sentences picked apart, every intention and decision questioned.”

Gallagher notes in conclusion that she tried to steer a young writer to work with “a Helene.” He declined. “I’d like to believe that he’ll rue the day, but I doubt it. Nobody has Helene’s standards; nobody reads like Helene anymore.”

Phil Avila, a veteran reporter and copy editor in Spanish and English, has worked in journalism and across cultures from the community level to the international … with more than 20 years as an editor with The Wall Street Journal. Most recently he was with The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, Inc., as he worked with various programs at high school and college levels. Until a recent job change, Phil was a regular visitor and lecturer on numeracy, copy editing and headline writing at DJNF-sponsored editing residencies at Temple.

By Linda Shockley, Deputy Director, The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, Inc.

Like so many journalists, Phil Avila credits his high school journalism adviser with encouraging him to pursue a news career. The path led to reporting in Venezuela, a media study in Ecuador where he met his future wife and eventually to the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund.

After 20 years on the copy desk of The Wall Street Journal followed by five years with the Newspaper Fund, Phil was laid off in September. He looked back and ahead the other day.

Phil visited the Temple residency program instructing more than 60 interns there as well as the sports editing program at Nebraska and the editing programs at San Jose and his alma mater the University of Texas.

At Temple, Phil took interns through their headline-writing-paces Wall Street Journal style and discussed the problems and pride of writing tight, bright heads that fit the slot’s specs.

“It was always a delight to visit Ed’s training sessions. He’s really an extraordinary person who helps young people get why journalism is so important,” he said. Read More »

Jessica Cox Lawson, DJNF/Temple 1994, is a freelance writer and editor … and full-time mother and caregiver. Pictured above with her sons Max, 4, and Ben, 2, she is a 1995 graduate of West Virginia University with a BS in journalism and a 2002 graduate of George Mason University with an MA in history. A Fund intern at Newsday, she previously has worked at The Pocono Record, Lehigh County (Pa.) Historical Society and Army Times Publishing Co.

I love news. I love newspapers. I love working in newsrooms – the energy, the passion, the stress and the fun. And yet, I have not worked in a newsroom for seven years.

I found something I love more. Two somethings, actually. Their names are Max and Benjamin. Max is 4, and Ben is 2. They are my sons.

I am a stay-at-home mom.

You are probably asking yourself why I am writing for a blog about working journalists. But I am a working journalist, too. For the past four years, I have been a freelance writer and sometimes editor for Army Times Publishing Co., a Gannett-owned group of weekly newspapers that covers the U.S. military. Previously, I spent four years working full-time for Army Times.

Fourteen years ago, I was a rising college senior and a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern at Newsday. The thought of motherhood had yet to enter my mind. My two intense but exhilarating weeks of training under Dr. Trayes at Temple and my experiences that summer of 1994 as an editing intern on the Long Island copy desk of Newsday opened my eyes to exciting new possibilities in journalism. I worked at my college newspaper at West Virginia University, and I loved the school’s journalism program, too. But this was real journalism — fast-paced, high-stakes and intoxicating.

A year later, diploma in hand, I turned down a wonderful opportunity to return to Newsday as a copy editor in favor of taking an editing position at the much-smaller Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pa. The pay was low, the hours long, and working at the Record certainly didn’t command the same level of awe and respect from my friends as had Newsday. But the opportunity to be truly involved in every step of the production process of a daily newspaper proved too alluring to turn down. I spent two years there, honing my journalism skills, before landing an associate editor position at Army Times. Read More »

Charlie Moore, DJNF/Temple l979, is city editor of the Albuquerque Journal.

I’m afraid I’m headed to Hell in a handbasket, along with so many other
journalists these days.

I blame Trayes.

I blame the Newspaper Fund.

You might blame any number of other other great professors and mentors you’ll
have in your life.

What I blame them for, of course, is not the state of our industry. What I
blame them for is inspiring love for a profession that simply has been too much
fun to leave.

I’m writing this in the early afternoon, midweek, and it’s starting to rev up.
We’re dealing right now with the story of a well-known, well-liked cop who died
in an accidental shooting this morning. We’re trying to finish off stories for
the weekend, including one about a sheriff’s deputy who seems to be developing
a habit of stopping out-of-state motorists for driving 3 or 4 mph under the
speed limit (yes, under), and then confiscating cash under federal forfeiture
laws. We’re also dealing with the fallout from an investigative column about
lawyers, most notably the district attorney, who have court cases sealed from
the public by willing judges.

And, of course, the country’s financial system is melting down, so we’ll have
to squeeze that in somewhere.

The phone rings far too much. Reporters want to bounce ideas off me. The bosses
want to know what’s up with the performance evaluations that are overdue. PR
folks are calling to pitch stories. Billy, who’s just a bit nuts, is calling to
… well I’m never sure just why Billy calls.

Such bliss.

It was a fairly straight line from Temple to here: a couple of years copy
editing
at The Hartford Courant (where I did my Fund internship), a couple of
years copy editing here at the Albuquerque Journal, then reporting for a few
years and then back to editing. I’ve been city editor for more than a decade
now, which apparently is some kind of record.

Where do we go from here? Wish I knew. There are still plenty of questions. But
then, we’re journalists, and questions is what we do.