Ask A Pro
Examples of Work
Why racer Dale Earnhardt's death was big news
Important stories aren't always comfortable ones
Election 2000 front page
Who We Are special section
Clinton impeachment front page
Press & Sun-Bulletin
Why did you become a journalist?
Like most journalists I know, I came into this business because I love to read, report and edit. I like being the first to know when something happens, and I love to ask people "why?" I also am gratified to know that my work can be seen the very next day in the newspaper. I began reading newspapers, especially the sports section, at a pretty early age, and I kept scrapbooks of famous national figures when they died. I'd always been a kid who liked to read a lot. In fact, my parents used to scold me for spending too much time reading instead of going outside to play. During junior high, I began writing a sports column for the school's monthly newspaper. I took a beginning journalism class when I entered high school. I was very fortunate to have a teacher who inspired me to learn more about journalism and his enthusiasm and support was so infectious that I've been doing newspaper work ever since.
What are your main duties as managing editor?
I am responsible for overseeing planning, assigning and editing of local news, business and features content; supervising section editors; and coordinating recruitment and training programs.
Please describe a typical workday, if there is such a thing!
My workday actually begins at home, where the first thing I do each day is read the newspaper from cover to cover. Once I arrive at the office, my immediate focus is the next day's paper. I'll scan the wires quickly to see if there are any big stories developing in the state, nation and the world. I'll then go to our Web site to review what we have posted at the moment, then I'll use the Internet to review the front pages of several newspapers, including those close by in Elmira, Ithaca, Syracuse, Buffalo and Albany. I also regularly look at the Web sites of The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune and CNN.
We have a daily news meeting at 10:30 a.m. with the key editors to determine what's on the agenda in terms of coverage. Then I usually meet with the executive editor to talk about any number of issues involving coverage, the good and bad things about the paper published that day, personnel and administrative issues.
I keep an eye on the wires and the Web sites throughout the day and check regularly with the metro desk and others to see what's developing on the local scene.
We have our second daily news meeting at 4 p.m., when we review an extensive list of stories that are being considered for the next day's paper. We use the 4 o'clock meeting as a discussion to determine which stories ultimately will end up on the front page as well as the cover pages for metro, features, business and sports. After the daily afternoon meeting, the activity tends to speed up as we work toward meeting various deadlines. I don't read every story that goes in the paper, but I do try to pay attention to the significant stories scheduled to appear on the front page and the local front.
What's the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being involved in the discussions and decision-making about whether stories are ready for publication and where they will appear in the newspaper.
What's the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect these days is figuring out ways to put out the best possible paper for our readers with limited resources. We're constantly juggling priorities and resources to respond to the news and reality.
Do you miss not getting out to report on stories yourself?
Even though I thoroughly enjoy being an editor, there are times when I miss the pleasure and challenges of reporting and writing. I do write an occasional column and I try to write at least one story a year. I think editors should never forget how hard it is to be a good reporter.
Is it true that good editors need to be not only good journalists, but also willing to train and teach the staff?
Good editors definitely need to have strong journalistic skills and the willingness to train and teach. Journalists learn a lot by going to college, but their real education starts when they enter a newsroom. Most journalists starting out need a good deal of guidance and feedback from their editors and they often tell us they are disappointed if they don't get that on a regular basis.
How has new technology (the Web, etc.) changed the way journalism is done at your newspaper?
Well, for starters, technology has given us new deadlines because we can update a story on the Web at any time. Technology has made much of our work go faster, but that speed also increases the likelihood of errors, so it's important that we be attentive to details at all times.
What is public journalism?
Public journalism, also known as civic journalism, is a somewhat controversial style of journalism that's received lots of attention in the past decade. I consider public journalism as a means of helping readers understand what is happening around them in their communities, why it is happening, and what it means to the reader. One of the key philosophies of public journalism is that a newspaper has an obligation to do more than just identify a particular problem. In other words, if a newspaper focuses on a key issue, controversy or problem, it also needs to give the reader an idea on how they can get involved, what the possible solutions are and what needs to happen next for the issue to be resolved. In my view, public journalism does not advocate or promote particular solutions, it just spells them out. I firmly believe that it's in a newspaper's best interests for democracy to thrive in the community and in this country. A newspaper's job is to arm readers with the information they need to be active and responsible citizens.
How can the newspaper be a part of the community but remain objective?
I think the best way for a newspaper to be a part of the community is to commit its staff to making sure that the newspaper reflects the community and not the opinions or lifestyle of an elite group of college graduates working in a newsroom. It's OK for a newspaper to get excited about some things in the community, like major successes for your athletic teams or unique awards for certain individuals. It's not our job to be boosters, but we can help the community celebrate its successes in appropriate journalistic ways. At the same time, the newspaper has to pledge to tell its readers the good, bad and the ugly about their community. We can't stick our heads in the sand and avoid all the troubles around us.
What do you look for when you hire reporters and other journalists?
Some of the characteristics we look for include curiosity, the ability to write, intelligence, resourcefulness, energy, honesty, verbal skills, listening skills, flexibility and passion for their work.