Sunday, March 25, 2007

Clips (continued)

I asked George Beetham, Jr., to respond to Sarah's post. Here is his reply.

Pat's comments offer a couple of strategies. But I want to address the nature of clip files and, by extension, resumes.

What you really seek to do with both resumes and clip files is to present to prospective employers a digest of why they should hire you.

You need to understand that employers will receive many resumes from many people. What you need to do to attract that employer's attention is stand out from all the rest.

If I am looking over resumes, trying to decide who will be invited in for an interview, I look for a resume and clip file that demonstrate the applicant's interest in and fitness for my publication's mission and philosophy.

I look, therefore, for resumes and clip files that demonstrate a candidate's interest in and commitment to community news reporting.

So clips from non-related publishing ventures are not going to trump clips from newspapers, everything else being equal.

For me, journalism was a second career after the first of writing journalistically styled reports for a government agency. So I not only didn't have a clip file, my work being locked away, but nothing to indicate that I would succeed in journalism.

I wrote freelance stories for little or no monetary remuneration to build a file. I talked to the editor of a local weekly paper to find out what he needed in the way of stories, and what he needed was features. I set out to write them with a vengeance and soon had a file that got me through the door.

As an aside, the editor who eventually hired me said he put little stock in clip files because he thought they represented the work of the copy desk rather than the writer. But other editors value clip files because they do demonstrate not just writing ability, but a reporter's grasp of issues.

It's correct to assume a clip file consisting of poorly edited stories is not going to get the job done. But it's also essential to present a clip file that is germane to the position for which you are applying.

So the course of action I would recommend is to contact the editor of a small, community newspaper and seek out ways to write stories the paper can use, even if it means doing that for free (a price that is always right in an age of limited budgets).

A further benefit for this strategy: I have hired people who have been freelancers or stringers who demonstrated their fitness for journalism in this way.

Another approach might be to seek out an internship, even if it is unpaid (assuming you do not have an overwhelming need to put food on the table and pay the rent). People have interned while holding down night jobs, by the way. I have hired former interns, again for their demonstrated ability.

Editors seek out people who will become good journalists. They want people who are motivated and outgoing. Journalists interact with people from government officials down to the common man/woman. Anybody who demonstrates an outgoing, but not dominating, personality and journalistic credentials makes the hiring process easier. That's your goal, to make that process a slam-dunk.

Good luck.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


George Beetham advices budding journalists to build a clip file for job applications. I know having a large number of clips from which to choose and show future employers is important; but, as Claire and I touched on last class, what if your published stories have been mangled by the editors? The mistakes the Ka Leo editors put in stories are, frankly, embarrassing. My friends and I agree that we don't want to send in our stories because when they are published with stupid errors, we end up looking like the fools. But sometimes a school publication is the only avenue for student journalists to get published. In these situations, is it better to have many published, poor quality clips or unpublished, better quality stories?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting a job in journalism

I asked George Beetham, Jr., editor of The Review, to tell me what he looks for in applicants and how he evaluates resumes and letters of recommendation. Here is his response.

Starting with the resume, I look for candidates who have some evidence of interest in journalism, from course work to experience, perhaps on school publications. We get tons of resumes when we post openings. These run the entire gamut, including folks who have no remote idea what being a journalist is all about (experience as a circus clown who wrote his/her memoirs does not qualify one as a journalist).

That makes it harder for someone pursuing journalism as a second career, as I did many moons ago. I went out and sold freelance stories for peanut shells to build a clip file, and that did the trick. But that shows evidence that a candidate is serious and not just shopping around to see what might fit.

Resumes should clearly and prominently stress any related experience that would qualify the person. Don't bury this in the last paragraph, which might not get read if the first part is vague or general.

The interview is important. I look for alertness, attentiveness, signs of interest in our publication and the geographical areas we cover, and responsiveness. If people's attention wanders in the interview, they're not going to do a good job interviewing sources. They're apt to miss key phrases, or entire blocks of what the source is telling them.

I prefer that a candidate listen attentively while I discuss the job and our mission and then offer reasons why he or she will fit into the job. At this point, I expect the candidate to dazzle me and clearly indicate qualifications, using examples of his or her experience as it relates to our mission.

I like good follow-up questions because they mark a good journalist. I also like to hear some evidence that the candidate can marshall facts into a coherent whole. If people can't do that, they're not going to make it.

Suggestions for candidates:

First, understand clearly what journalists do and how they do it. Watch televised press conferences and take notes. Use those notes to outline the topics covered in the press conference and compare those notes to printed or televised reports on the press conference. It may seem like a silly exercise, but you will learn from it. You will get many assignments on the job that will seem equally silly, but you will be expected to complete them nevertheless.

Second, understand the publication to which you are applying, its coverage area, the issues with which it deals, and get a good appreciation for what it does. If you go into an interview and start telling an editor that his or her paper needs more movie or music reviews, you're not going to get a job as a general assignment (hard news) reporter. Smaller pubs do not review movies or concerts. They cover politics, government, governmental services, civic issues, social issues, police, fire, and emergency services issues. Somebody whose heart is set on being a music critic is likely to butt heads with the editor of a small pub.

Third, understand that once you are hired and on the job, you will still have to undergo a learning curve, from learning computer programs you may or may not have used to learning the ropes at the paper. This is not an easy process. It can be very uncomfortable, and perhaps unsettling. Keep in mind that only the strong survive, and be strong. It is helpful to be a quick learner, and it will become apparent early on whether you are a quick study or not.

Last but not least, always seek feedback from editors and colleagues once on the job. Learn to differentiate "I like your stories" from "What I like about your stories is xxxxx." Search out specifics and not glittering generalities. Glittering generalities are momentarily good for the ego, but of no help at all in learning.

Finally, it needs to be understood that journalism is a career field in constant transition, both in people and technology. Ability to master, not just learn, technology is essential. We are about to undergo a transition in our web sites that will make new ways of reporting possible. It will be up to us to tailor what we put on the site and how we put it in our individual papers. I've been in this business for 26 years, not counting 14 years working for the federal government in a related field. I am about to face yet another learning curve. It never stops. Technological changes are not easy, but they beat chiseling letters into a rock tablet, or sorting through lead type to compose a single line of letters and words.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More idiotic…

Gary Mawyer sent me the link for this article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft: More idiotic than erotic. It's a wonderful piece—followed, I might add, by some provocative comments. One of these reads as follows:

What is remarkable here is the evident failure of Geoffrey Wheatcroft's publisher, Politico's Publishing, to employ a copy editor capable of picking up obvious errors. Traditionally, all mainstream publishers submit manuscripts to a copy-editorial process before the proofreading stage is reached, the copy editor usually being someone with knowledge of the subject area. It's true that small publishers, which Politico's presumably is, are often challenged in this area, but then Politico's is an imprint of Methuen, which obviously has the resources to employ competent editors. So what is to blame for this surprising, and extremely depressing, blunder? Cost cutting? I think we should be told ...

Test 3

(from Moon-Yun)

For some parts of the test, I felt like the copyeditor would have looked up the answers on a stylebook and not necessarily have the answer in his/her head, such as with the punctuation question. Would that be true?

Tragic grammar

Sometimes, I think, copyediting something could take away the beauty that is found in flaws. Here, an example, is Virginia Woolf's suicide letter. Imagine if someone had copyedit it! Now, that would be tragic.

"I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer."

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Believe you me"

Every time I hear this phrase, I'm left a little puzzled. I think I know what they are trying to emphasize, but is this correct? And if it is acceptable, would a phrase like that be left alone or would copyeditors replace it with a more commonly used phrase?

I having

I found a sentence I don't understand. The sentence is from a recent Scientific American article, "Sweet and Soiled Science," and I've reproduced the first paragraph here.

What makes the sap run? Because he or she wants to serve in Congress. Well, that's the first answer that springs to mind this autumn day just after the November elections, and we'll get back to that subject later. But a better answer deals with a better interpretation of the question--regarding maple syrup. That subject was also on my mind, I having recently returned from a trip to the Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill Center, Vt., while attending the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Burlington.

Is the phrase "I having" in the third sentence correct? Is it just not a common form? It just didn't sit well.

Sentence Length

Someone has suggested to me that I should vary my sentence length in my writing, so that I don’t sound monotonous. Is sentence length something over which a copyeditor has control? Does a copyeditor ever tell an author to avoid monotonous writing by varying sentence length?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Book questions

1. In a discussion of "that" and "which," the book throws out a term I don't believe we've learned; if we have, I apologize, but what is an elliptical sentence?

2. The examples our book gives on misplaced modifers seem to me, also "missing subjects." For example, the book states: "1. Watching from the wings, the orchestra played the overture." The explaination the book gives is that "Someone or something other than the orchestra is watching; it could be a soprano or a murderer [aren't the writers bright and cheery?]. Query the author unless you are certain from context you can supply the correct noun or pronoun" (134). I guess my question is, can misplaced modifers be called missing subjects?

3. The book states, "Unless the sentence is extremely short, use a comma between two independent or main clauses...joined by and" (142). I'm wondering is this "extremely" short sentence a judgement call?

4. The book does this "extremely short" business again with introductory clauses and phrases. "Unlesss the introductory phrase is very short, a comma is necessary to indicate the pause in thought" (144). Again, is this a judgement call?

5. Colons! The book gives an example of a colon used to "add" or "supplement" to a sentence. I don't believe I've seen this often in writing. I think the em-dash is more often used. Am I wrong? The example the book gives is this: ""Only one course was open to the present: to fire the secretary" (147). This seems odd to me; I'm sure it's correct, but I was wondering if this is common for a colon. Ha..ahhh..okay.

A Million Little Lies

I recently saw a documentary on James Frey and his controversial book A Million Little Pieces. I decided to do some research, and I found this review on A Million Little Pieces on It got me thinking, "Should editors be more careful (I guess you could say) about what they choose to publish?"
News from Doubleday & Anchor Books

The controversy over James Frey's A Million Little Pieces has caused serious concern at Doubleday and Anchor Books. Recent interpretations of our previous statement notwithstanding, it is not the policy or stance of this company that it doesn’t matter whether a book sold as nonfiction is true. A nonfiction book should adhere to the facts as the author knows them.

It is, however, Doubleday and Anchor's policy to stand with our authors when accusations are initially leveled against their work, and we continue to believe this is right and proper. A publisher's relationship with an author is based to an extent on trust. Mr. Frey's repeated representations of the book's accuracy, throughout publication and promotion, assured us that everything in it was true to his recollections. When the Smoking Gun report appeared, our first response, given that we were still learning the facts of the matter, was to support our author. Since then, we have questioned him about the allegations and have sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished.

We bear a responsibility for what we publish, and apologize to the reading public for any unintentional confusion surrounding the publication of A Million Little Pieces. We are immediately taking the following actions:

  • We are issuing a publisher's note to be included in all future printings of the book.*
  • James Frey has written an author's note that will appear in all future printings of the book.* Read the author's note.
  • The jacket for all future editions will carry the line "With new notes from the publisher and from the author."
  • Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Interview with Gary Mawyer

    Gary Mawyer is the managing editor of the medical journal Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing.

    Pat: Gary, a message from an online scientific journal was recently sent to the UH-Manoa English department. Here are some excerpts from the message:

    Every artist or author deserves a fair consideration to be published. S——— J——— I——— provides an efficient forum for publishing research and creative work from all disciplines. S——— has assembled an extensive and prestigious Editorial and Advisory Board.

    This initiative is driven by an overriding passion to assist artists and authors to cope with the "publish or perish" reality that has been created by the policies of the academia and funding agencies. According to several surveys, a large majority of authors and researchers cite slow review process and publication delays in the current system as a major obstacle to their publishing objectives. Many have also expressed concerns about the fairness and integrity of the peer review process in traditional publishing. Some scholars have argued that there is a need to liberate the publication process for broader and fairer access.

    S——— J——— I——— is the first global initiative that intends to accomplish this objective. We sincerely believe that artists and authors who have devoted months or years to a project, should not be shut out of the publication world simply because they did not follow some procedural or stylistic rules and guidelines or because their work did not fit in. All traditional journals have very rigid stylistic or procedural policies that unduly create artificial barriers and in effect retard innovation and creativity.

    S——— maintains minimal procedural and stylistic rules, and accepts scientific and creative works that follow any style manual. A fair peer-reviewed evaluation system is used to select works for publication. S——— maintains a rapid electronic submission, review and publication process. Our capability for perpetual future accessibility and preservation is also extremely valuable to both authors and readers.

    Gary: This sounds like a shady spinoff of a long-speculated theory about how to resolve the cliquishness of science publishing by having something like the "open journal" idea where researchers sort of post up their work rather than submitting it to an established institutional journal. Peer review and the editorial vetting of the material is the issue that has kept the open journal idea from meaning anything. Obviously I could swear I just recreated cold fusion and this could be done quite egregiously—and then be cited as a published finding—if I can find a way to turn it into a proper-looking cite without exposing the work to any physicists. So the riposte is, we'll have editors and reviewers.

    And the next question is, who approves these editors and their reviewers—in other words, what keeps the scientologists and UFO nuts from being the "reviewers"? And suddenly we're heading lickety split back toward the establishing institutional journal after all, whose ancient cliques annihilate all but a select body of "the fit" who then Darwinianly rule the publishing in their field. But the open journal remains awful tempting, especially to outsiders, but also to investors because of its pay-to-publish or self-supporting fee structure.

    It is an interesting subject and some general discussion of it would be valuable to would-be editors and writers because more and more of it is going to be encountered—and also because some pay-to-publish venues are well run and a good idea. There's a host of issues: intellectual property rights, what's a fair cost, is the venue providing an audience or not, and what's being claimed. Scholarly pubs are so much about job evaluations and ultimately tenure and advancement that I wouldn't recommend anyone to stray off the traditional track, but non-scholarly pubs can be a different matter.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Puncuating abbreviations

    I always get confused about how to puncuate a sentence that ends with an abbreviation.

    For example: "We will have dinner at 8 p.m.(.)" Is there a need for a period or does the second period in p.m. act as the puncuation?

    Same goes for "Do you work at the U.N.?" Is this over-puncuating?

    This is a little similar to our class discussion about how to puncuate the sentence "Do you Yahoo!?"

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    How many days in a year?

    There are 365.242199 days in a year.


    When do you use "of," and when do you use "from"?
    Example 1: "I am a member of The Beatles," or "I am a member from The Beatles."
    Example 2: "I am a baseball player of the Boston Red Sox," or "I am a baseball player from the Boston Red Sox."

    When do you use "about," and when do you use "on"?
    Example: "I will write a paper on copyediting," or "I will write a paper about copyediting."

    For me, it seems (or is it, "to me, it seems...?") like you just have to play it by ear.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Trademarks and bullet-points.

    I have two questions today. One may have already been answered in the past, but I couldn't find it.

    The first question deals with adding a period at the end of a bullet-point topic. In Test 1 and 2, we were supposed to add a period after the subject of each topic, such as Anthologies or Litblogs. Why do we add a period after the topics? A lot of teachers in various departments always discouraged one-word sentences, or two-word sentences. Wouldn't a colon, or semi-colon be more effective in these cases since the author is trying to describe or define the topic?

    My second question deals with trademarks. When do we, as copyeditors, put in the trademark logo when we come across a brand-name that's being used in the manuscript? Do we have to wait for certain copyrights to be handed over, or are we allowed to leave it as it is?

    Just for fun

    i just stumbled across this:

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Online Hawaiian Dictionary

    Those of you who have never used a Hawaiian dictionary may want to know about this site. To get the English edition, click on "English Text" at the top of your screen. If you don't know the proper orthography of the word you want to look up, select "All Dictionaries" before you do your search.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Editing Hawaiian Words

    I know that for the test this coming Friday we will need to know how to correctly spell Hawaiian words. How do we write the insertion mark for a kahakou? I can see indicating the need for an 'okina the same way one would an apostrophe, but do we use a caret or just draw a line over the vowel?

    Carets and moving text

    I know we're not suppose to post, but I consistently run into this problem when copy editing: moving a piece of a sentence after striking something. I usually need to add a word or two, so where do I insert it? Do I insert it in the text that is moving or where the text is going to move?

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Thursday, March 8, 2007

    Living Organisms

    This is a response I received from my good friend Kazuyo Karan; I'd invited her to read Takashi's post on skies and all the comments it received. Here is what she said:

    Thank you for sharing the discussion. Very interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

    I remember that taking linguistics classes was eye-opening for me, especially the ones in historical, anthropological, and psychological contexts. I couldn't remember a thing, but the History of the English Language class was very interesting. Your students might be interested in looking up the etymologies of the articles "a" and "the." I did a paper on "weirdo." So much to discover in one little word.

    After all is said and done, we may realize that languages are living organisms. We can smother, kill, conquer, or cultivate them. And we may also learn that the standards, rules, and regulations are contrived for the purpose of gatekeeping and maintaining the status quo, just like other authoritative schemes.

    Thank you for sharing interesting thoughts.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2007

    combining editing marks

    In one particular spot on the test (question 17.), I edited four consecutive things. The question read:
    "Has your journal done any readings? Just two to four of your authors at a reading series for a night?"

    I deleted the first question mark, added and m-dash, replaced "just" with "for example", and added a comma after that. I used a carrot to mark my addition of the m-dash and you corrected it by counting the m-dash and "for example" as part of the same edit (the replacement of "Just"). Your correction made the editing cleaner and didn't inhibit interpretation of the marks.

    So, my question is this: Should we always try to combine editing where we can, or should it only be employed when there is no chance of confusion?


    Help wanted

    I know that this class is titled Professional Editing, but what does that mean? Will we be professional editors after taking this class? Pat emphasized that there is a lot to learn about editing; a lot more than what is covered in the class material. What should we do after this class if we want to pursue a career in editing? Should we take more classes? Practice editing? Look for an entry level job? Many editing jobs require applicants to take an editing test as part of the interview process. If we do well in this class, will we do well on such a test?

    Monday, March 5, 2007

    noun strings

    I had a really hard time taking apart the noun strings. Does anyone have any hints or ideas on a better way to do them than the book explains?


    How do you read when you copy edit something? Do you try to force yourself to read through the work, at lease once, as a typical reader would? How does copy editing affect your non-copy editing related reading?

    Computer editing

    (from Moon-Yun)

    My friend plans to write a book about his crazy life. I am thinking about offering my editing services since taking this class. I'm afraid that if I do the proofreading markings, he's going to freak out. To be diplomatic, I was thinking of making the edits on the computer instead of marking it on the paper. What do you think?

    Developed vs Have developed

    On the second test, under library subscriptions, the sentence read, "We have developed a large list of libraries..."

    Is there a preference for writing "We have developed..." over "We developed..."?

    more dirty words

    I was listening to NPR, and this story comes on about a controversial word written on the first page of a new children's book: scrotum. At first I thought this was a little over exaggerated because scrotum is the anatomically correct name for a male body part, but I am not the parent of a third grader. The book is this year's Newbery Medal winner The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (story link). The author explained that the word was crucial to the overall meaning of the rest of the story, and was not just used to push the envelope of what words are acceptable.

    I imagine that the word scrotum was discussed by the author, copyeditors, and editors before publication since it is children’s literature. The story got me thinking, and it seems to relate to Sarah's Risky Business post from last week on the role of diction in writing. I think this is another good example of how changing just one word could have far reaching consequences, and not only in copyeditorauthor correspondence. A single word can change the message or vitality of a work, or can upset and offend readers, and this word doesn’t even have to be a four letter word.

    Blue Skies

    I was reading a magazine the other day and found the phrase, "beautiful skies over Berlin." We say "beautiful skies" or "blue skies," but how can we pluralize the word "sky"? In my understanding of this universe, there is only one sky. How do you count skies?

    I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts, but I feel that the English language is inconsistent when it comes to what can be counted and what cannot be counted (countable and uncountable nouns). For example, the word "advice" is uncountable, but the word "suggestion" is countable.

    That's good advice!
    That's a good suggestion!

    Is there a logic behind this categorization? To me, if "advice" is uncountable, "suggestion" should also be uncountable.

    Sunday, March 4, 2007

    Colons and Caps

    Is there a rule for capitalizing the first word after a colon? I see this around sometimes, for example in our text book on p. 161. At my internship last summer, if I used a colon, my boss would always edit the sentence to capitalize the first word after the colon. Is this correct? When is this appropriate?

    Images, Charts, Graphs

    I just finished reading a book that featured numerous image figures. How do copy editors usually handle figures, charts, diagrams, illustrations, etc.? Is this normally a text editor's responsibility? Or do images fall in the bailiwick of the layout artist or graphic designer?


    So I was wondering, is this a wrong sentence: "You may earn extra credit by writing a report or by submitting a completed reading list." In other words, is the second "by" unnecessary?

    Also, is it okay to put a comma between "report" and "or?" I notice some documents have this? (Or is it "do this?")

    Anyway, thanks for your help!