Session: Thinking Like an Editor
I love listening to the side conversations that are a hallmark of a journalism convention such as this. You walk down the halls and hear editors figuring out what their next front page photo will be. Reporters discussing the latest ethical dilemma in their newsroom. One of our own senior reporters from The Pendulum is currently in the hallway making phone calls for her story this week. It’s so comforting to be surrounded by people who think the way I do, who share the same passions, the same goals, the same frustrations. After spending so long on a college campus where many (outside of the School of Communications) couldn’t care much less for how we put The Pendulum together, I revel in the time I have to spend with so many of my journalism comrades.
My first session this morning, “Thinking Like an Editor,” was led by Bill Elsen, a retired reporter from The Washington Post. He took the topic very seriously and poured his years of experience into the insights he shared with us. He moved quickly from point to point, seemingly using every single minute we were in his presence to share his knowledge and experience. And, boy, did he have a lot to share. I jotted down bullet point after bullet point of tips and tricks to not only strengthen the publication, but also to strengthen the staff and yourself in the position of leadership, as an editor.
It can often be a daunting task having the responsibility of leading a group of people. There are the interactions of unique personalities, personal friendships coming into play and, at least on a student newspaper, the complicated task of having authority over a peer. It’s going on two years that I have been in an editor position at The Pendulum and, on a daily basis, I still learn more about myself as a leader and the staff I work with.
While Elsen had plenty of insight to share, check out some of my favorites and the ones that I plan to incorporate into my own leadership at The Pendulum and beyond:
- Develop a mission statement for your publication: Who is the audience? What is the purpose?
- Create your own stylebook: While AP dictates much of the style in a newspaper, there are certain names, places and topics that are specific to your area and publication.
- Accept constructive criticism and always look for feedback.
- Be outgoing, curious and nosey: You have to be a people person in this business.
- Develop a team willing to work for you: Help out whenever and wherever you are needed.
- Good editors think in the present and the future: Outline certain issues at the beginning of the semester.
- Know how to criticize people: But don’t do it in front of people.
- Your main job as an editor is leave a legacy: Train up a staff who will continue to uphold the precedents you set.
– Caitlin O’Donnell