The Ten Best Things about being an Editor
By Rachel Mendell
Last Sunday, my pastor was preaching on how man can, indeed, with God’s help, change his life.
Near the beginning of the message he said this: “Dr. Paul S. Rees, in his writings, tells of a widely read newspaper reporter who gave his readers a clear, cold, look at his own pessimism. He wrote: ‘If a man is a philanderer, he will be a philanderer to the end. It is only in novels that a miracle in the last chapter makes the drunkard reform and become sober, the grouchy, sunny and sweet-tempered, the miser, generous and open-handed. In real life, these things never happen. People continue to be what usage and habit have made them.’”
I don’t know whom Rees was talking about, but I can tell you that I know reporters that feel exactly that same way. And I know why.
When you have to report daily on bad things that happen, bad things people do to each other, disasters, floods, wars and disease, it will eat away at your soul. When your editor expects you to sensationalize your lead paragraphs and write headlines that are intended to grab readers and drag them into the blown-out-of-all-sensible-proportion story, it creates inside a distorted view of the world around you.
The problem is not with the job or the reporter; the problem is with The Media in general. The Media lacks balance. The Media thinks it has balance, but it is not true balance. An example of what I mean would be a story of a car fire followed by a “humorous” story of how some thief did something really stupid and got caught. To The Media that is a serious story balanced with a light story.
I respectfully disagree. I know how hard reporters have to work and the crazy hours we keep, but I see that example as a negative story followed by another negative story. Look at the front of the Columbus Dispatch and see what I mean (except possibly at Christmas and Easter when the MO is light, fluffy and heart-warming). Watch Channel 10 News out of Columbus. The Media is constantly making fun of people and judging people. They place opinions in the coldest of all stories, freely using a multitude of tired adjectives and (gasp) adverbs to make their point “stronger.” In my humble opinion, using what little experience I have gleaned in my life, that method of sharing a story is cheating. Reporting was never meant to be glorified gossip.
I think working in communication should be a positive, rewarding career that lifts up the general public and encourages them to be better people. At the same time, we cannot shirk our responsibility of watching the government and reporting about the bad in an effort to help the public protect themselves.
This Christmas I am thankful for my new job as editor. I have learned a lot and also solidified opinions I have had about this position for a long time.
Here are my favorite things about being editor of the Galion Inquirer.
The people. I have met and been re-introduced to lots and lots of wonderful people. I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life, but this is the best job for meeting new people.
The challenges. Since I stepped into this position I have been met with more challenges than I can count; more than any other job I have held. I have worked through them all with the help of my staff and fellow editors and I am relieved to say, I am still here.
My coworkers. I could not have gotten past all the challenges placed before me without lots of help and encouragement. I have made late-night phone calls (“help!”) and early morning requests (“please retype this”) and late-afternoon-just-before-closing requests (“can you go there and take a photo?”) and have never been let down or disappointed. We have a great team.
I get to say “no.” Two or three times a week I get random calls from far-flung congressmen wanting free space in our paper to promote some special idea or opinion they have. I get calls from Columbus (and Florida) businesses wanting free advertising (in the form of a story because they are such a great company). Occasionally, I get the bizarre shyster that tells me my readers need to know about him because he has such a great idea (also free advertising since there is nothing physical to back up this great idea). I get tons of get-rich-quick emails and advertisements in the guise of “free” news stories. None of these people have ever read our paper. Most of them don’t even know where Galion is. I enjoy saying “no.”
The chance to be creative. The palette and brushes of a newspaper are limited, but I am pushing my limits and the limits of our software, with the help of our staff and gurus of the business. I can create a new look to old pages.
The chance to express other’s creativity. You may have noticed new voices in our paper recently. A few new writers are working for us. New voices keep a publication fresh and help us see our community in a different way.
My schedule. I have a flexible schedule; perhaps not as flexible as my schedule was as a reporter, but I can still get in early, or stay late, or take a break when I need one (from a 13 hour day), and plan around special days with my family.
The opportunity to serve the community. There are a lot of important things going on in the community, things that keep residents connected. The newspaper plays a special role in keeping the reader informed of what is going on. Information comes in, we put it in the paper, readers read it, and hopefully a connection is made.
The opportunity to correct mistakes. I have made some mistakes in the paper and I have had the opportunity to correct them. Some corrections come in the form of The Correction Box, while others take the form of a rerun story. Still other corrections appear as new stories that probably should have been published long ago.
The chance to learn. It has been said that a good reporter can talk about any subject for 4 minutes. I have found that to be true. I know a lot about how government works (who is responsible for what) including villages, cities, counties and townships; about the ODOT test pavement in US 23, geocaching, mining in South Dakota, zoning and conditional use permits, health inspection, regional planning, and storm water systems and I&I. I know a little about the court system and a lot about foreclosure. I can talk to you about how school funding works until you start to drool and fall asleep. I have been known to bore people to death about local issues and I have also argued over points of state government control. After my first two years of reporting I realized that no one wants to listen to all the stuff I know about, so now I just try to write it all down and concentrate on listening. I learn more that way.
I want to thank all those who are sending me pictures and stories. With an editorial staff of three, every single photo and event promo emailed in is a huge help. All our readers have helped to make the paper what it is today – almost COMPLETELY local. We are a unique publication. You aren’t going to find this much Galion news anywhere else. Thank you for all your help.