Job Title: Copyeditor
Type of Company: A small private newspaper that covers developments in southeastern Massachusetts.
Education: Master's of Library Science, MAT
Previous Experience: I worked for more than 12 years as a children's librarian. I also worked as a part-time reference librarian when my daughter was young. More recently, since 2000, I have been a copyeditor for my town's local newspaper.
Job Tasks: My responsibilities involve reading copy on a computer and editing it for grammar, spelling, accuracy, coherence, and flow. We often get press releases that we re-write in a newsier style. I also copyedit columns for the paper in the course of my day: a nature column, a food column, a gardening column, et cetera. Since we put out all four of our papers from a single office, we often work on more than one at a time, but my primary responsibility is reading copy for the Sandwich, Bourne, and Falmouth papers, in that order. I also copyedit supplement articles that come out in the paper. From time to time I even get to write one and I have written now on cooking, gardening and crafts for these supplements.
I am also responsible for the baby announcements, sending people forms to fill out and editing their responses. Lately, I have also gotten involved in copyediting entertainment articles for our A & E editor. I have learned a lot about my town, the newspaper business, and expanded my writing skills in the course of this job.
My general knowledge has been an asset in this job.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is reading the interesting articles and being able to correct an egregious error if I find one. I feel I have earned my week's salary when I discover an error that could make the paper look stupid. I have learned to appreciate the power of language. Working here made me appreciate the people who can write well, write simply, but make a point.
The worst part of the job is when I make a mistake, but dealing with some of our customers' irrational demands comes a close second.
Job Tips: I think it helps to study English, to read newspapers or other written material, either in hard copy or online. I think general knowledge of the area you live in is good, if you want to work for a local newspaper. Radcliffe College used to have a course in editing that they gave. I don't know if they do that still. Buying books on style will also help and talking with other writers would be good. My degree was in art history, but I did write for my high school newspaper. It will depend on where you want to work.
Additional Thoughts: I think that many people think that copyediting is an easy job. They think that it is easy to spot mistakes. I had that misconception before I did it. Working against a deadline is also hard. Working for a newspaper involves long hours on some days. Skills in spelling and grammar help a lot in my job, but having a good, all-around general knowledge helps at my level of journalism. I often help the photographers identify a bird or a flower, or recognize when a foreign word is misspelled. Personal qualities that help are patience, a sense of humor, and the ability to stay focused. Even without the latter, you can succeed. I did not tell them I was a daydreamer when I applied for the job and I have learned to stay focused.
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