This week, Kat Bouska asked, “What were you writing about last year at this time? How have things changed?”
On the first Sunday of February 2021 (February 2020 and February 2019 also), I wrote compilations of the top stories from my work. I have put together these story collections on the first Sunday of every month since December 2018. When I wrote the January 2022 version, I had no reason to think my February 6, 2022, blog post wouldn’t follow the same pattern.
However, between January 2 and now, the unexpected happened.
I have joined Digimentors as Vice President of Special Projects. I didn’t take this awesome new job just to change up my routine on the first Sunday of every month. I took it because it’s an awesome job.
And now I have to figure out what to do with these first Sundays of every month.
For this month, I want to write about a few takeaways that were part of my daily thought process over the past five years as I have worked on multiple newsletters across an array of industries. They applied there, but they have some life parallels too.
To set the stage (and to oversimplify a whole lot), the work of our teams involved choosing stories that fit with the particular newsletter, writing two-sentence summaries of them, and editing the summaries.
Doing these three things always improved the integrity and quality of our publications.
Scrolling to the bottom of the story every single time
It was not uncommon for me to be reviewing a source story in order to edit the related two-sentence summary and discover a notation and link at the bottom that said, “Previously published in [name of some other publication].” That was a red flag because it meant the source story we were using may not have aligned with our editorial guidelines (that required original content) and may not have been recent enough. Some publishers are making these links less and less obvious.
Life lesson: Not everything is the bright, shiny new development it appears to be on the surface.
Not assuming a story’s dateline means the story took place there
Especially with the consolidation of journalism markets, it’s not uncommon for a story’s dateline to read something like “Cleveland” when the actual story is about Elyria, Ohio. After five years of doing every piece of the newsletter process (except copy editing), I fully get the need to balance speed with accuracy. But my philosophy always was that the more care taken by the first person in the process, the less likelihood of errors down the line.
Life lesson: Don’t assume. Things aren’t always as straightforward as they seem at first.
Using common sense
I can’t imagine there’s anyone in my audience I have to say this to, but reporters get stories wrong, usually due to inadvertent errors or pressure to get a story out fast. A car is more likely to have traveled 60 miles per hour than 600 miles per hour (unless it was a really special car!), for example. Some things require an editor to have certain life experiences to catch inconsistencies (a good argument for having more than one set of eyes on a publication at various parts of the cycle). Ultimately, most things require an editor to be curious (to always be asking, “Could that have realistically have happened?”) and to have the humility to be open to other people’s suggestions.
Life lesson: Don’t trust what others say at face value. I’m not suggesting this to be pessimistic (remember, I’m the human behind the Optimism Light). I’m encouraging you to be realistic. Things aren’t always as they seem.
Editing is about grammar, yes, but being a critical thinker about language and being an adept editor require much more than “being that person who catches everyone’s typos.” (Trust me, no one catches all of the typos, and we are especially bad at catching our own – ask me how I know.)
As I’ve said (in much more detail) the first Sunday of every month for 3+ years after I shared the story highlights, there are lots of opportunities to work at Future plc/SmartBrief. Learn more here.
If you’ve read this far, I’ll let you in on a piece of “full disclosure.” I started doing the compilation posts as a vehicle for sharing the company’s open positions, in the hopes that I would score an incentive payment if anyone applied through my referral. The joke’s on me a bit, because I grew to enjoy looking back at the previous month, and adding the open positions eventually turned into more of a secondary afterthought (and never resulted in a referral). Funny how that worked out.
What should I write about on March 6?
*Note: Some of the links to the stories featured in the SmartBrief compilation posts may not work, because the system has undergone changes recently.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.