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Renee Petrina, DNJF/Temple 2004, was an editing intern on the metro copy desk of The Washington Post. Today she edits at The Indianapolis Star in Indiana. She graduated from Penn State in December 2004 and started at The Florida Times-Union within a month. Her second week on the copy desk, Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl, so it was definitely baptism by fire. Renee spent about 18 months in Jacksonville before moving to The Indianapolis Star. At the Star, Renee focuses specifically on A and metro sections as well as some business editing. In addition to time on the rim, she frequently serves as wire editor, booking the A section, attending budget meetings and coordinating with the A1 editor, who’s in charge at night. Renee is a member of the news room diversity committee, which works to help staff understand implicit biases and stay focused on inclusive coverage. She continues involvement with the Society of Professional Journalists, which she joined in college. Renee has coordinated two training sessions for SPJ’s national convention.

In the DJNF/Temple boot camp, we were in a cold room with the blinds closed, cramming our heads full of information and striving to check every last thing. During my internship on the metro copy desk of The Washington Post, it was the same focus. Just a few stories a night and practical mental exhaustion when I got home. I was being challenged, and I loved it.

Now that I’m a full-time copy desker, a few things have changed. I still work in frigid conditions (it seems wasteful to have space heaters under our desks AND the air turned on, but our pleading has not swayed the building manager) and I still can’t see out any windows. But I’m not editing nearly as intensely.

On occasion, I question the tradeoff. Could I do my job better, spending every second operating at 110%? What about making sure I’m fully relaxed every day when I walk in? It’s possible. But then I wouldn’t have a life.

At The Indianapolis Star, I’m lucky to be part of a team of talented nightside journalists who create a culture of success. Even with dwindling resources and gallows humor over pending Gannett layoffs, we continue to work for better headlines and engaging story selection in the service of readers. I’m proud of that.

But I’m proud, too, of my work outside the Star. I volunteer 200 hours a year at the world’s largest children’s museum. I learned to country line dance as a form of exercise. I have a strong group of friends from diverse backgrounds and career paths whom I can count on to sing karaoke, go out on the town or just play board games. I’m involved in my faith community, and I serve on a few boards. And I value my time at home, where I bake and hang out with my pets.

I could devote every drop of my being to copy editing, but I love the tradeoffs too much. And in a world where layoffs just keep happening, it’s better that I have those community involvements. Quite simply, it gives me something to do if I lose my job. And if I’m spared the cuts, I’ll keep volunteering and dancing and baking and generally going 100 mph, because it keeps me on the pulse of my community and makes me a better journalist.

(Obligatory what-I’ve-been-up-to-over-past-four-years graf: Trained with Trayes, moved to D.C. in house across from Bob Woodward, totaled my car on Night 2 of the internship, gained nickname “Crash” from said totaling, spent internship pay on new car, went back to college, wrote thesis, wore mortarboard to get Penn State degree and medal, moved to Jacksonville, Fla., worked copy desk during Super Bowl, did not get suntan, got really into SLR photojournalism, spent all my free time volunteering at a humane society, created outreach program from news room into schools, brought dessert to work every Saturday, learned to appreciate all the things my parents ever did for me, was recruited away to Indianapolis, drove for two days with my cat to much colder climate, started wire editing, became de facto wire editor for six months, unexpectedly met awesome friends in a honky tonk bar, got addicted to Facebook, learned a lot about dinosaurs, taught said dino knowledge to kids at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, became de facto computer expert of copy desk, adopted a second cat that showed up on doorstep, lost belongings in burglary, learned the generosity of others after said burglary, visited fellow Trayes ’04 survivor Emily Veach, sent my suitcase with her to Hong Kong, joined diversity committee at work, joined alumni board for alma mater’s student paper, avoided requests for blog entry because I didn’t have a photo, finally wrote this.)


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