Some things you learn on the fly. It’s kind of like that time my swimming coach literally threw me into the deep end of the pool when I was six. I thrashed and splashed, doing whatever was necessary to stay afloat and get to the nearest end. No, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, and it definitely reinforced the idea that I was not cut out for sports. However, it did serve its purpose.
I had perfected swimming back and forth in the shallow end — a mere three feet of water. When you know you can always just stand up, it’s not much of a challenge. But when you can’t see where the bottom of the pool is, that’s a completely different story. My introduction to the features editor was somewhat similar but far less dramatic.
When that first draft hit my desk, I didn’t know what to do with it. I rephrased a couple of sentences, corrected a few typos, added a punctuation or two, and then passed it up the chain. I continued what I call the “glorified copy editing” phase for several weeks, leaving the real work — if there was any — to the “powers that be” above me. Then, I found myself in a real pickle.
You never forget that first article you have to send back. It isn’t particularly bad — all the information is in there. It just needs some reorganizing and another sweep through. You realize that if you make the changes yourself, then you would be changing too much. Not only would that be taking away the voice and effort of the original writer, but it would also mean hours of work on your part. Sometimes the process is painless; other times it can be a very trying experience. Whichever it is, that’s when you begin to figure out what exactly you’re supposed to be looking for when you’re editing, but you’re not quite there yet.
For me, the week of Brick City Homecoming 2008 wasn’t just about Jimmy Fallon and meeting alums at a Reporter reunion. That weekend, the feature fell through three days before it was due, and I had to scramble to fill the space. I changed the article line-up about four times in the process. In the end, the cover, though visually interesting, ended up not representing anything in the issue, and the subfeature didn’t end up being related to the feature.
To my advantage, a former editor in chief was writing the subfeature, which became the feature for that week. To my disadvantage, she wanted feedback throughout the entire writing process and wouldn’t take “it looks good to me” for an answer. She forced me to really analyze her writing, and, after tossing that article back and forth several times, learn how to read it like it was the very first time, every time. I didn’t know it then, but that’s when everything changed. I only realized it while I was sitting in one of the journalism workshop’s sessions this past weekend.
I can’t say that I’ve mastered being an editor. I’m quite far from it. There’s still so much that I can still improve upon, and that’s the beauty of the weekly college publication. We’re all still learning, and there’s always room to try something new. There’s always the opportunity to make it better.
Editor In Chief