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Ashley Thomas, DJNF/Temple 2008, last summer was an editing intern at The Associated Press in New York City. Now she works there full time. Following is her account of Election Night in the AP news room.

Last week, I had the privilege of working Election Night at AP
headquarters. I was in charge of keeping running lists of elected
governors and propositions as they were approved or defeated.

It just kept me busy enough that I was involved in the election
madness but able to follow the progression of the presidential race.
It was evident early on that the night was going to be fairly
anticlimactic. We knew that Obama had won Pennsylvania, previously
considered a battleground state, before 9 o’clock. Ohio came not long
after. By that point, I overheard managers saying that if Obama won
Florida, it was over. A little before 11, a NewsNow popped up
declaring Obama the winner of Florida. At 11 o’clock on the dot, we
posted the first flash bulletin that I had ever seen (I guess we save
them for important events such as this) that said, “Obama wins
presidency.”

Regardless of political preference, that moment was surreal. I felt my
stomach drop at the weight of the news and what this meant for our
country, its future and the world. Television screens around the
news room flashed images of crowds in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles,
Kenya celebrating a new America. The news room quieted as we all
digested the history that had been made that night.

And then that minute passed, and we all got back to work.

One of my favorite moments of the night happened as Obama was taking
the stage in Chicago to address the crowd after his win. Just as he
stepped up to the mic, the lights in the AP news room brightened
ominously. An audible gasp went up from managers and editors who had
been brought in from various bureaus around the country to work the
election. As we all looked around, trying to figure out what this all
meant, one of the old-timers piped up with, “Nah, the lights always do
that at midnight.” And sure enough, it was.

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Rachel Rosenthal, DJNF/Temple 2008, last summer was an editing intern at The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. She recently began work full time as an editor at Dow Jones Newswires. After about a month on the job she says she is slowly adjusting to juggling three computer screens and headlining hundreds of press releases. “The difference between working at a financial newswire and a local daily is,” according to Rachel, “quite literally, night and day. Still, for any copy editor, there’s always a place for precision, quick learning and a thirst for tackling what you don’t know.”

My Jersey City-bound PATH train slid beneath Ground Zero just after 9 a.m.
on Sept. 11, 2008. I was en route to my first-round interview at Dow Jones
Newswires
.

I tried to focus on the unhinged pages of Barron’s resting on my lap, as if
I could cram a finance course into the four-minute ride. Prices up. Prices
down. Seven years ago, 2 planes, nearly 3,000 victims those were the only
numbers in my head.

When I left the apartment that morning, my little problems had seemed so
big. Did I iron my skirt enough? Where, exactly, is the entrance to the
PATH? Will I be able to afford weeks, perhaps months, of unemployment if I
don’t get this job? Yet as I walked down the tiled corridor to the
Newswires’ office, my ticker of worries ran blank. That morning, the bald
reminder of my smallness in the face of fate restored some lost
perspective.

It’s tough for someone like me to take a step back. I’m obsessed with
minutiae; I’m a copy editor after all. But in this job search, this
humbling time, I had to start thinking big. It’s too easy to become
paralyzed in a death spiral of what-could-bes. I decided not to crowd my
thoughts with mushrooming anxieties, or talking points I had memorized from
CNBC. Instead, I talked to myself: I’m fortunate for the opportunities I’ve
had thus far. My safety, my education, my health, my family, my friends.
This won’t be the last rough patch in life. The lessons I learn will fuel
my success. I’m going to give this tryout my all.

I crunched out a three-hour test and navigated two hours of interviews.
After a second, equally vigorous round, I was offered the job. I can’t say
that my state of mind was the only factor that led to my success. I can say
that the step back helped me focus and perform.

Time and again I had been advised to treat the job search like a full-time
job. I agree … to a point. Don’t forget to set aside time to tend your mind
and spirit. Anxieties readily gobble up the foreground of your thoughts,
and starve your productivity. Expunge them, as best you can, to make room
for the big picture. Just as an athlete trains for competition, train
mentally for the job hunt. The interview is game day; you won’t be able to
perform if you let yourself go, psychologically or otherwise.

Expired from my first day of work, I tilted my head back between my
shoulders as the PATH train wrapped back around the raw hole of the World
Trade Center
stop. Folded in my hands rested a copy of The Wall Street
Journal
, open to the opinion page. When the train’s sputtering pace cued me
to pack up, I caught sight of the Newswires’ managing editor, Neal
Lipschutz, on the masthead. Just that morning, I had sat, starstruck,
across from him at the editors’ meeting (a first-day-only perk).

No, my little worries didn’t get me very far. Yet the little decisions I
had made to take a certain class, to study hard for a certain test, to catch
a certain subway … these all landed me somewhere really big.

It’s been nearly 10 years since Tennessee Prof. Dorothy Bowles asked me and a colleague at The Washington Post to contribute a chapter to her text, “Creative Editing.” The chapter headline was, “How to Be a Hit as an Intern” (no, that wasn’t our head!), and we were asked to give some guidance to editing interns on how to have a successful internship and get a job offer. As I re-read that essay the other day, I thought, “Wow, how times have changed in just eight short years.” If I were to write the 2008 version, it would have to include much more than, “Listen to everything Ed Trayes tells you at Boot Camp.” In fact, today’s Washington Post intern must know not only how to write a clever headline (thanks, Dr. Trayes!), but also know how to do it in various formats, on several platforms, and be prepared to do it under exceedingly difficult time constraints, as media operations downsize their staffs. Today’s Post intern must of course know the difference between “that” and “which,” yet also know the difference between Final Cut Pro video files and iMovie video files (coming soon to my job description of assignment editor: “will edit and cull video”). The cliché’ is true: The more skills you have, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate the turbulent waters of today’s journalism. All of this, of course, may prompt you to ask: Is it still worth it, the journalism/copy-editing thing? To which I say: Absolutely!

I’ve been at The Washington Post now for almost 11 years. I went from copy editor on the Metro desk in 1997, to assignment editor and member of the Washington Post editorial board in 2008. There is not a week that goes by in which I do not feel like I am extremely lucky to do what I do. And there is not a day that goes by in which I do not harness much of what I learned that summer from Dr. Trayes, my hero of heroes. Now that I am on the “other side” of the news-opinion wall, I am expected to not only exercise expert news judgment and editing skill, but I am also expected to represent the company at formal functions, give my opinion on the important topics of the day, and ask tough questions of those who are brave enough to meet with our board. How did I end up here? Like many of you, I was in journalism school on my way to a career in reporting when a beloved professor handed me the dreaded DJNF editing test. A few months later I was in Philly and bracing for my first meeting with Dr. Trayes. I was simultaneously enthralled by and terrified of him. It turned out to be the best education I got in journalism, hands down. That summer I was at The Hartford Courant writing 10 different versions of the same headline for various zoned editions of the newspaper. The next summer I was at The Post, editing stories about the decrepit D.C. public schools and rewriting dispatches from foreign correspondents covering the death of Princess Diana in Paris.

Over the years I have taken my copy-editing career on paths that some journalists only dream of: I have worked on the Metro, National, Foreign and Editorial Page copy desks during some major stories (the best time to be at a newspaper!), such as the Clinton-Lewinsky scandals and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; I was put in charge of our editorial pages on Sept. 11, 2001, when several of us couldn’t make it to the office in downtown Washington because of the fires at the Pentagon; I have served on Post committees as a consultant on style and usage; I’ve earned numerous fellowships and awards that have exposed me to places and subjects I had only dreamed of; and I’ve even had the chance to meet several of the national and world leaders who were featured on the current events portion of my 1995 DJNF editing test! I am at my desk every workday by 7 a.m., reading the major papers and blogs of the day. I am paid to digest the best sources of news, to interview prominent thinkers, and to formulate opinion content for some of the most educated people in the country. No matter what happens to journalism the industry, journalism the craft will always be in sharp demand; those who practice it with excellence will be the survivors. And journalistic excellence was always the backbone of the Temple residency. Every day that I go to work, my hunger for knowledge is never sated, and that is something else I credit Dr. Trayes with: He taught us to never make assumptions, never stop learning, and always seek out every version of the facts. Yet even though I am always a student of the world, I know this much: I owe my career to my time at Temple, and I am so grateful to Dow Jones and to Dr. Trayes for the privilege.

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.

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 »