Assistant City Editor
The year I spent as an assistant city editor for the Columbia Missourian was wonderfully exciting and challenging. Every week, from August 2011 to May 2012, and then again from May 2013 to August 2013, I worked twice-weekly shifts at the news desk, one dayside and one nightside, often with weekend shifts and extra newsroom time thrown in.
In a way, my job was a bit like teaching. Sure, technically the goal was a finely-crafted piece of journalism and not necessarily an education. But more than anything, I needed to be able to clearly explain to my reporters what I was doing, why I was doing it and what they needed to be taking away from the discussion or assignment. I’ve had to explain everything from writing a crime brief to covering a house fire to dissecting a property tax levy increase. An initial moment of outrage even led to a story about how a young girl must balance her school activities and her religion. And the best part is, in every exchange I learned something new as well.
The experience I have gained helping to run a news desk and a beat has given me so much confidence in my ability to stay calm, organized, accurate and efficient on deadline and in general.
The biggest project I took on was covering Columbia Public Schools Board of Education elections. What began as a lunchtime conversation turned into a whole collection of stories about candidate forums, Q&A’s on a tax levy increase, bond issue and candidate platforms, and profiles on each person running for school board.
Spearheading this project taught me to make a plan, rally the troops and execute that plan as it was envisioned. Just within these past few months I have learned so much about what it means to be an editor.
It’s not just editing copy or assigning stories. It’s not even being bossy, stern, or any of those things we think bosses do — it’s learning how to read people, how to encourage them and make them care as much as I do. It’s being part authority-figure, part friend, part therapist, and part cheerleader. It’s setting realistic deadlines and making realistic goals, all while working within the larger frame of the newsroom. It’s knowing how to cooperate and push and manage. It’s late nights, early mornings and missed meals.
This job helped me come into my own as a journalist, and the focus on education is one I’d like to pursue as a career when I am finished with school. When I went back to reporting, my work was better because of the year I spent section editing. I could better identify the errors in my own reporting, style and structure-wise, and I had a clearer idea of how to problem-solve when I got in a bind with a source or community member.