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I’ve been at the AP for more than seven months now, and it is easily
the best — and the hardest — job I’ve ever had. I am humbled every
day by how much about the world I have yet to learn, and fortunately
and not so humbly, none of that includes geography.

I started training as “national editor” a few weeks after I became
official. The national editor, what we refer to as the “nat ed,” is
the person who filters the incoming and assigns stories to various
rewrites. Bureaus from around the country will send us stories they
think may be “a-wire worthy” — stories that may appeal to a national
audience — and it’s up to the nat ed to decide what to use. Often, we
will scour archives to see if we’ve covered a particular person or
event before. And just as often, we’ll have to assess the story on its
news value or interest to the public. The rewrite will read over the
story, make all appropriate edits and trims (some of which are
suggested by the nat ed) and ship it back. Then it’s the nat ed’s duty
to give it a final look before filing it to the wire and essentially
the world.

I’ve been nat ed a handful of times now, and I love it for its fast
pace and responsibility. Of course, I have made a few mistakes, ones
that could ultimately hide behind their quick corrections and die a
silent death. But one was too funny not to share. It wasn’t a mistake
I added into the copy but rather one that I let slip by me — so as
editor, it was completely my fault this got published. The
entertainment desk was unstaffed for the night, and we had just gotten
a story in on “Dancing with the Stars” with their latest celebrity

One week’s celebrity was Toni Braxton. It was an easy read and a
simple story — this is what happened, this is who got kicked off the
show and why she’s famous. I’m not a huge music person, so I wasn’t
surprised or concerned when I didn’t recognize the song that Braxton
was listed as being famous for. I shipped the story out and went on to
my next duty.

Approximately, 45 seconds later, we got a frantic instant message from
the writer, who hoped we hadn’t sent the story out yet. Because there
was an important correction to be made — Toni Braxton’s famous song
was actually “Unbreak my Heart” and not “Unbreak my Head” as written
on the wire.

I let myself giggle for a few moments before swearing to myself that I
would CATCH EVERYTHING, EVERY TIME from now on. And so far, Toni
Braxton remains the low point of my career. And it will stay that way.


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