Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Q&A with the Editor

A journalism student at Eastern Michigan University recently e-mailed me a questionnaire as part of her class. Below are her questions and my answers. I thought it might be fun to share it with readers.

Q: How long have you been working in the journalism field?

A: Professionally since May 1992. I also wrote for a short time at The Trojournal, my high school newspaper at Whitmore Lake High School, followed by The Eastern Echo at Eastern Michigan University, where I studied journalism from fall 1986 through spring 1991. I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science in 1991 from EMU.

Q: What was the first paper you ever wrote for? How old were you? Was that the first time you had ever been published? If not, what was the first publication you were every published in?

A: My work was first published in The Trojournal at age 16 and then the Eastern Echo at 22, followed by The Dexter Leader in 1992 at age 24.

Q: What did it feel like to be published for the first time?

A: It was thrilling to see my work published. It motivated me to write more, strive to do a better job, come up with more interesting material, find and cultivate sources and make a difference in the community by producing informative, interesting and relevant articles.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

After working from May 1992 to August 2000 as a reporter and associate editor for The Dexter Leader and The Chelsea Standard, I was promoted to editor of both publications. In November 2006, I was named editor of The Saline Reporter and The Milan News Leader. All four publications are part of Southgate-based Heritage Newspapers, which is owned by the Journal Register Co. My favorite part of working at a small, community newspaper is that I have a hand in every aspect of the newspapers I am helping to publish. From reporting and photography to layout/design and proofreading to producing local video and posting to a staff blog, I enjoy it all. I feel invested in the total product and I am constantly thinking about ways we can improve in all of these areas.

Q: What got you interested in a career in the field of journalism?

A: I had an initial interest in high school and received very positive feedback from my teacher, but after working as a restaurant hostess in high school, I thought restaurant management would be the field for me. After failing algebra in college, however, I thought better of it, knowing I’d never be able to pass statistics. I took algebra again and passed to graduate and in the meantime took a basic journalism class and rediscovered my passion. I struggled initially in my reporting classes, as one professor in particular had me rewrite all my stories, but it made me work harder and become a stronger reporter with a desire to continuously strive to do better. You can always do a better job of reporting, whether it’s talking to more sources, exploring a particular angle more comprehensively, asking tougher questions, doing more research, etc. To this day, I never feel totally satisfied with what we have produced, despite leading the Chelsea and Dexter newspapers to three Newspaper-of-the-Year awards from the Michigan Press Association and personally winning numerous awards on a state and national level in general reporting, features, column writing, design, photography and general excellence. I always feel like we could have done more given more resources and time.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: To be honest, I don’t have a lot of spare time. I put in about 60 hours a week on average. When we’re on deadline Monday and Tuesday (these are weekly newspapers), I am putting in two 16-hour days, followed by another six hours on Wednesday before we release the papers to the press at noon. So, that’s 38 hours in 2 ½ days, followed by two eight-hour days and about five to eight hours on the weekend, depending on what’s going on, such as a community event or fundraiser. When I do take time off, I enjoy traveling. I’ve been to Hawaii four times, three cruises to the Caribbean, as well as several states. I also enjoy scrapbooking, downhill skiing and reading journalism magazines to stay up on the latest changes, advances and opportunities as the industry evolves.

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: I am not much of a book reader. I primarily read newspapers and magazines, staying on top of current events and trends. I veg out in front of the television before I pick up a book.

Q: Who is your favorite musician?

A: I enjoy many musicians, from Mariah Carey, Joss Stone and Christina Agularia to Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit to Nickelback and Kid Rock.

Q: Do you feel that being a woman affected your ability to move forward in your career, either negatively or positively? Why do you feel that way?

A: I was the first woman editor at The Chelsea Standard, Dexter Leader and Saline Reporter. So, I don’t feel anyone blazed the path for me on a local level, although on a national scale I am sure that was the case with Barbara Walters, Helen Thomas and other famous journalists.

Q: If you could be in any other profession, what would it be and why?

A: I can’t imagine being in any other profession. I absolutely feel this is my calling. I, however, have discovered a passion for digital journalism as I have led the way at our newspaper group in video journalism and our staff blog. So, if for some reason I couldn’t work in journalism, I might be interested in exploring videography, such as creating documentaries.

Q: How did you come to be an editor?

I was promoted to the position in 2000, after working eight years as a reporter and associate editor. At the time, I felt I still had more to learn as a reporter, but those higher up in the company had the confidence in me and insisted I give it a try. I do enjoy guiding these newspapers, mentoring and growing my staff and having creative control, but I wish I had more time for reporting. I miss producing more in-depth stories and the rush you get from being the first with a story important to the community, one that exposes corruption or criminal wrongdoing, creates a lot of buzz and produces change.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of editing?

A: Editing is not as exciting as reporting. I guess the most rewarding aspect is that I feel I have saved the newspapers embarrassment by catching some pretty big mistakes by a reporter, whether it was erroneous information, misspelling, grammatical errors, AP style mistakes, a lack of thoroughness, or encouraging a reporter to continue investigating and following up on a particular issue.

Q: What is one thing you'd like to pass on to students looking into a career in journalism?

A: Make sure you’re prepared for the future of journalism and wherever that may lead you. The future is pretty uncertain now, so you need to have a variety of talents, training, knowledge and experience, and you must be willing to embrace change. Journalism is not just about getting the story and printing it anymore. You have to present it in a number of formats, from the initial breaking story online, to the traditional print format with more detail to a two-minute video format online and a blog posting. You must know how to write, report, take photographs, produce video, paginate/design pages and produce podcasts, and be ready to learn to do more as technology evolves.


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