Friends and family rarely question my intentions for wanting to be a journalist. But when I tell them which area of journalism I want to pursue — copy editing — they look at me bewilderedly and launch into a barrage of questions: “A copy editor? What’s that? Why?”
There are countless reasons copy editors choose the career paths they do, and this is mine:
As I pointed to two stacks of newspapers tilted slightly on my front porch, I said, “They look like the Leaning Tower of Pizza.”
“It’s Pisa,” my mom said, chuckling. “And you better eat breakfast before your paper route if pizza’s already on your mind.”
I was a paperboy for the Scottsbluff Star-Herald in Nebraska the summer before my sophomore year in high school. Little did I know then, on my first day delivering newspapers, that I soon would have a craving — not for pizza, but for print journalism.
It was thrilling and fascinating reading the stories each day before I delivered the papers and then telling neighbors which stories were the best.
To continue to experience this exhilarating feeling, I became a copy editor working for newspapers including the The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Des Moines Register, The Lincoln Journal Star and The Scottsbluff Star-Herald.
As a copy editor, I help influence readers’ decisions of what to read with the headlines I create, the edits I make to reporters’ articles and the photo captions I weave together.
For the next few days as part of the copy desk for The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, my skills in those areas will be tested and honed with the help of Jen Balderama and Kaly Soto, both editors at The Times.
To learn more about copy editors and what they do, or to learn how to write better, visit these Web sites:
- American Copy Editors Society
- Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
- The Slot: A Spot for Copy Editors
- Testy Copy Editors
- Words to the Wise: A Conversation About Language
- You Don’t Say
— Brian Anthony Hernandez