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Assistant managing editor for the copy desk
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john mcintyre John McIntyre
Assistant managing editor for the copy desk, The Sun, Baltimore
What inspired you
to become a journalist?
I needed a job. I was in a graduate program in English, training for jobs that did not exist. Facing the reality that I was not going to be an 18th-century man, I looked for some way to make a living. The Cincinnati Enquirer took a chance on hiring me - after a three-week tryout - and I have been in the business now for more than 20 years.
What are your main
duties on the copy desk?
As former chief of the copy desk, now assistant managing editor for the copy desk, I oversee the work of about 40 copy editors. That includes the budget, hiring, performance reviews, complaints from other desks and from readers, decisions about house style and English usage, planning, representing the copy desk elsewhere in the newsroom, etc.
What kind of hours
do you work?
Daytime hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Tuesday through Thursday, as an administrator. Night hours, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, doing honest work as a slot editor on the desk. Sundays and Mondays off; I try not to work more than a half-day on Mondays; otherwise I would feel exploited.
How are the copy
desks (news, business, sports, features) set up at The Sun?
The Sun has three copy desks: news, features and sports. The news copy desk handles national, foreign, business and metropolitan news. Metropolitan news includes the four zoned metro sections each day.
How do you handle
By the traditional means: caffeine and swearing.
Are copy editors
lone wolfs or team players?
We have copy editors in both categories. There is room on the desk for quite a range of personalities.
What's the most
fulfilling part of your job?
I see how good the work of the people I've hired can be: We put out the paper on time, and it is always better - clearer, livelier, more literate - than it would have been if we had not worked on it. It is also gratifying to work with smart people.
When most people
think about a newsroom career, they think about reporting. Why should teens
consider bout a career as a copy editor?
Reporters are people who spend the day running around town trying to extract information from people who are (a) unavailable, (b) inarticulate, (c) garrulous or (d) hostile. Some people enjoy doing that. Copy editors get to come in to work, sit down for an entire shift, talk with agreeable colleagues, and enjoy the quiet sense of superiority that rises form identifying and fixing other people's mistakes. Some people prefer that.
Do copy editors
have a weird sense of humor?
Nearly all of them. A colleague at The Cincinnati Enquirer, Webb Matthews, was working as wire editor one night several years ago when the Associated Press moved Hugh Beaumont's obituary. (Beaumont played Ward Cleaver on "Leave It to Beaver.") Without hesitation, Webb called out into the newsroom, "June, I'm dead!" If this isn't funny to you, get an older person to explain why it's hilarious.
What are two or
three favorite headlines that you've written?
As a slot editor, I mainly tinker with the headlines other people write rather than originating them myself. There was one to a brief in Cincinnati in 1980, "Bakery break-in yields no dough" that generated praise from the managing editor then and mild embarrassment now. In Baltimore, for a headline over two twinned stories, one on flooding in the Midwest and the other on a lengthy heat wave in Baltimore, I wrote "HELL OR HIGH WATER." Do you suppose that they moved me into the slot to keep me from writing any more headlines of my own?