Things I learned as a copy editor/page designer

Thursday was my last day as a copy editor and page designer at a consolidated editing center where I worked on 20 newspapers with about 30 other people. At the consolidated editing center, I laid out anywhere between six to 16 pages per day, depending on the publication(s).

I am so thankful for my time as a paginator and copy editor, because it has helped me hone skills that will only add to my career as a writer and editor. I came into my job not knowing anything about balancing word content with visual elements (sidebars, pictures, graphs, pull quotes, etc.). I didn’t know anything about presenting a story in an aesthetically pleasing manner while giving it a headline, deck and cutlines. As an editor at my previous job, I never gave a thought to word content and visual elements and how they could work together, but now I know for the future how to work with graphic designers and art directors on how to present content in an aesthetic and balanced manner.

I have come away from my previous job with so much happiness and fulfillment because I had an awesome and knowledgeable boss, helpful and mentoring supervisors and supportive copy editors who encouraged me along the way.

Here are some things that I learned:

  • NEWSWORTHINESS: Newsworthiness is something we all learned in journalism school, but this job has taught me the value of it more than my previous jobs and freelancing gigs. Working in daily news for various publications shows you audience, news value and timeliness day after day after day. As someone who was strictly a magazine writer, this is a valuable quality to take away.
  • DESIGN: As I mentioned earlier, I had no experience in page design (well, I took a class in college where we learned basic paginating and copy editing), but I now know how to be the kind of editor and writer who can visualize a story with art and graphics as I am writing a story. As a magazine writer, most stories (unless they are features) should be photo driven, and it’s important to think along the lines of color, pictures, sidebars, graphics — things that stimulate and engage the reader.
  • PEOPLE: Working in a consolidated editing center, you deal with a variety of personalities whether they be editors, other copy editors, ad sales executives, classifieds, press room workers, etc. You have to understand how to communicate effectively with all groups. As a copy editor you are the final step before the paper prints. You are the person in charge of producing the entire paper and have to make it happen by communicating with the appropriate department if there is a problem. You have to make it work and be on top of all aspects of the paper.
  • LEADERSHIP: When it comes down to it, as I mentioned earlier, you are in charge of putting the paper out. You are the last step before the paper goes to print, so you have to comfortable and confident enough to make a decision whether you have the OK or not. If the editor isn’t around to voice his opinion, then you have to have the gumption to make the decision since he/she isn’t there to do it.

Thank you so much to everyone at the consolidated editing center for their support and input. Working at the C.E.C. has been an absolute pleasure because of the supportive, creative people who head it up.