Spoiler alert: I haven’t succeeded at everything that I’ve tried. Point and case; my sophomore year of college I was hired at a student newspaper. My job, as the news editor, was to edit material and make sure that writers got said material in on time. My tenure was marked by news coverage expansion and abject failure—I failed just as much as I succeeded. It could be said that I succeeded at failing. However, the job was a learning experience. I managed to figure out a few things about work ethic, interpersonal interaction and perseverance before I was promptly fired after a year. Namely:
Always be polite.
As a manager, I had to rub shoulders with both big wigs and writers. This requires a large show of respect. Something I don’t inherently do very well. I tend to ignore people or talk down to them. However, people simply respond better to respect, be it a university president or new freshman meat. It is very difficult to get an honest, meaningful interview when someone is an asshole. However one shouldn’t be obsessed with flattery. Most can sense bullshit and they’ll respond accordingly. One needs to hit that respectful middle ground.
I once went to an interview with a event promoter. He didn’t answer any of my questions, nor did he offer any other leads for people that I could talk to. I only later found out that he’d been in contact with one of my writers; the writer had told him that I had no interest in talking to him. The interviewee was on guard the entire time, all because my writer had transgressed the rules of etiquette. Which brings me to the second rule of newspapers:
A newspaper is a collective effort.
Aldous Huxely once said, “By its very nature, every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude.” While he might of been right about existential man, he was dead wrong about collective projects. No man is an island. A newspaper is a collective project built out of the effort of many people. Writers, editors and designers mix their work together to make one cohesive product. This mixing is difficult as egos often clash. Anyone trying to work at a paper has to get rid of their winners and loser mindset, because everyone’s work will ultimately not be entirely their own. A writer may work on a piece, but an editor will improve it and a designer will make it pleasing. This collective effort will do nothing but make an egotist angry. The biggest egos at a paper will not be found in the editors and leadership but lay within the writers.
Writers are fickle.
Writers are the life blood of any paper. They provide all the material. Essentially there would be no product without them, but they can be major dick-noses. As a writer myself, I can endorse this assertion. Writers split their time between procrastinating, complaining and bitching—sometimes they manage to get some actual writing snuck into their busy schedules.
Writers are simply strong-headed people. They don’t want anyone else to work on their work. Most of them know the need editing, but they don’t want other people to add to or subtract from their labor of love. Writers, ironically, are bad at communicating. They don’t want to sit down and talk about pieces; they don’t believe that other people can help. I think that most writers secretly believe everything they write is art—if other people don’t get it, it is the fault of the observer. But because editing is standard, most writers bitch and moan at every edit. Those who edit go through hell every time a writer has a new piece.
Editors are unsung heros.
Being an editor is just as hard as being a writer. Even more so in some cases. Editors are those people who don’t mind putting in great effort and getting very little credit. That is the editor’s plight. They put in hours of work, but receive little to no praise. They work in the shadows to make writer’s material readable.
I would like to thank everyone who has ever edited for me. I know that I can be an asshole. Thank you for putting up with me.