It feels like just yesterday the convergence class was watching “Inequality for All,” preparing for winter break, when I received the email offering me the copy editing internship. I cannot believe how quickly the semester has gone.
All in all, I’ve copy edited well over 150 articles this semester, ranging from breaking news, to feature stories, to business and stocks. If there’s one important lesson I’ve learned, it’s that you need to trust your instincts when you’re editing. There were times when I would doubt myself when looking over something, only to have it followed up by my supervisor saying that it would have been correct. Learn how to overcome self-doubt and the learning process will progress much more seamlessly.
I’ve also learned that there are always going to be different ways to write display type. If you give one story to ten different people, there’s a good chance the story will be returned with 10 different headlines. Some may be wrong and some may be right, but everyone has different writing styles. Of course, they have to be right by still getting the news across, but I believe that as long as the display type is accurate and factual, there’s no one way to write it.
I’m going to miss the newsroom and everything I’ve come to get accustomed to this semester. What an environment it is and it’s truly been an incredible experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience with which to end my college career.
Let’s make this last day count.
Thanks for everything.
Differences between internship and Loquitur
Despite serving as news editor of Loquitur junior year, the role still encompassed a lot of copy editing, given that there was no formal copy editor position. Here’s a comparison between a school paper and a city daily.
Headlines: With Loquitur, you could take up as much space as you needed for a headline, but here, you need to fit the text to the space you have, while still maintaining quality and accuracy (even when you only have a couple of inches to work with). This can obviously be difficult sometimes, but it ends up being extremely more effective because you’re not tempted to write endless headlines or miss the mark on what the point of the story is.
Style: That Oxford comma, such a troublemaker. Loquitur doesn’t use the Oxford comma (or serial comma) but my internship does. That took some time to get used to after spending two years writing stories without them, but I eventually got used to it.
They’ll also very often use suffixes on dates, which we never did in Loquitur. It was surprising initially the differences between the styles of the two, but some (if not most) papers do use a stylebook developed by the staff as an addition to the AP Stylebook.
Captions: Aside from the different setup of the photo caption between the two papers (credit on a separate line for Loquitur, not for the other) and a different name (cutline vs. caption; but what’s in a name?), the photo captions also contain different information. During my time with Loquitur, the information would very often focus on where and when an event was held or will be held as the key pieces of information.
While that is definitely included in captions here, it’s never really the main focus. The caption is treated as an extension of the headline, providing more insight into the story. This is important because, very often, people look at the headline and caption first and if they don’t pull them in, they won’t read the article.
Writing photo caption challenges
One of the biggest challenges that I’ve come in contact with is writing photo captions. Whether it’s that I’m not including the most important information or I don’t have a clear focus, it’s been a challenge so far throughout the semester. Instead of continuing on and having issues every time I tried to write one, I sought out resources online for caption writing and found some great results. The Slot included the Nine Commandments, while Poynter pointed out some “hot tips.”
It’s obviously paying off because my supervisor told me that he could tell that I had worked on improving the writing of them! Progress.
Checklists and goals
[x] Write display type that requires absolutely no corrections
[x] Write display type that appears on the front cover
[x] Improve photo-caption writing
[x] Always be sure to identify people in the photo if there’s only a few of them
[x] Create new search query without needing instructions
[x] Learn some of the system’s basic commands
[x] Meet those learning objectives!
What it’s like to be a copy editor intern, as told by Tangled
When a headline fits just right
But then that one period takes up one space too much in the deck, making the entire headline not fit
When you’ve already merged the copy in a caption, but end up having to switch it up and become confused by the coding
How many times must you tell yourself not to merge the copy until you’re completely finished the caption?
Or when you forget to make a credit name all uppercase in the caption…
And when you’re juggling a bunch of different stories, all in different sections
That moment when you finally make all the edits and write cohesive display type for all the stories in your search query.
Who knew that Tangled could describe a copy editing internship so well?
Lessons learned so far
Within the first month, I’ve learned some very important lessons:
- Display type should tell a complete, yet condensed story
- The headline should contain the main information
- The sub-head should describe the headline
- The caption should tell another part of the story
- The news should be in the headline
- Thouh not shocking, deadlines matter and the order in which you get things done matters. Different sections close at different times and you need to be able to keep up with what you’ve already written, what’s left to do, and how much time you have left to do it in
- It’s okay to consult the stylebook as you’re editing. Actually you should be.
Thinking back, it’s a bit unbelievable to see the progress that just a month makes. The first week, I didn’t even know how to call up a story, how to call up a page layout, let alone how to properly make an edit without inadvertently making a mistake on something. I never thought I’d catch on but I’ve been able to see the progress already and it’s so exciting.
Setting up learning objectives, I wanted to make sure I kept my goals as broad as possible, but still focusing on certain aspects, so that I may be able to get the most out of my experience.
My objectives include learning how to effectively edit headlines, leads, captions, text, etc.; learning how to make sure that both sides of a story are represented; learning to write headlines and captions that are consistent with a story’s tone; and learning how to make sure that articles as a whole are error-free. These objectives were developed based off the original internship listing and I really can’t wait to see what I get out of the experience.
For the first couple of weeks, I’ve worked on a handful of articles per day; nothing too overwhelming, but still something that is going to take some time to get used to. From what I can tell as of now, I think these learning objectives will line up well with what I’ll be focusing on this semester.
Hello, from senior year’s last semester!
To the next big learning opportunity: I’m ready for you. I could not be more excited this semester to be interning in Philadelphia because, well, it’s basically the quintessential internship for communication students, especially those with an interest in journalism. Before I even started at Cabrini (and when I decided on a major), I had actually thought about how cool it would be to intern at this place. Little did I know that four years down the road, I’d be in the very newsroom I’d dreamed I would eventually be able to learn from in the future.
I’ll be serving as a copy editor intern, which is fairly different than anything I’ve ever done before. I’ve focused on social media in many internships, and really only started having a writing focus when I started interning at places like CRS and a national blogging community. Aside from Loquitur, it’ll be the first time I’m working in a newsroom and how exciting to be working in the city! I can’t wait to see what this semester holds.