On being edited

On Thursday, I sat with one of my editors to comb through final major content edits on a story that I’ve been poring over for the past several months. More than an hour later, I stumbled out of her office with final remaining clarifications in hand and a green light to accuracy check and make clarifications so I can finally publish the piece.

Being edited is an experience like nothing else, particularly when you’re sitting with your editor and being pushed to reckon for every unclear word or phrase or fact. You find all the bits and pieces that aren’t as clearly presented as you thought because you know your story so well that you forget your readers don’t also have a 28-page legislative history of the VA home loan program to read at their leisure (though they could find it online if that’s something they’re into).

The process can be exhausting and sometimes a little frustrating, but it is also oh so gratifying and incredibly humbling.

For the last few months, I’ve spent most of my time at the Missourian editing other people’s work. I sit down with reporters and help take their work and make it better,  giving someone else the chance to shine and hopefully helping them learn a thing or two in the process. But when it’s my turn to hand in a story, the tables flip, and I’m the one sitting back from my story while someone else picks out every problem and question.

There are hard moments — like when my editor asks that one question I realize I don’t know the answer to — but on the whole, I’ve come to weirdly enjoy the process. I’m reminded quite fully that I still fall into the category of “young journalist” and that I still have a lot of growing to do. I become aware of my own blind spots as a reporter and editor, and I start learning to fix them. I feel the catharsis of working with a veteran editor to extricate the impurities in the story to polish it into something more clear, more concise, more interesting.

As I think I mentioned before, it’s humbling, a reminder of what I still have to learn and that I’m never above being taught something new. When I realize that, I recognize how much I can learn from the story at hand, and I figure out what I can do better next time. It can be a hard realization if you have a lot of pride, as I do at times, but after a couple of years, I’ve learned to trust the process.


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