Editors at Work: Public Radio

Jackie Fortier is a Weekend Edition host and producer at KUNC for Colorado Public Radio based in Greely, Colo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English/Creative Writing from Colorado State University and a graduate degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder


What does a typical workday look like for you?

I report in the morning. There is a newscast at 2, 4, 5 and 6. I edit in the afternoon.

What is your greatest challenge?

Thirty seconds before I have to go on, I have to change the story. A lot of what I do, rather than the longform stuff which you students get to do, is Hemingway-esque. It is quick. It is concise. I have 45 seconds to tell you what is going on in your state, how it impacts you, or what taxes you’re going to have to pay. I need to make it about the listener. I need to contextualize the story.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I’m an only child. “Sesame Street” tried to teach me how to share, but I don’t do that very well still. I don’t have a producer, and I don’t have an engineer. I decide the order of the stories, how “hot” I want to make the board. I do the newscasts and the breaks. I like working by myself in that capacity.

What is the key difference between editing content for radio versus a print publication?

The key difference is how it sounds. When I’m editing I will read the story aloud for clarity’s sake. I don’t care what it looks like grammatically. I need you to understand what I’m saying, and I need that to happen before anything else.

How does your creative writing background affect your process?

I don’t like alliteration. I’ll change it. You have to be careful with anything that sounds similar to the next word. Colorado legalized pot, so I say, “marijuana,” “pot” and “fracking” all the time. You have to be careful with any word that sounds too similar to the next. You don’t want people to get lost. Most people when they listen to public radio, they’re making dinner, driving in their car. It’s radio. We’re not fire-side chatting with you. I need to grab you, make you pay attention. But I don’t really think Don DeLillo has much to do with what I’m doing now.

Was your graduate degree in journalism essential in securing your current job?

Yes, however, a lot of the people that I work with are English majors but do not have a degree in journalism. I am in the minority. You can get a job at a radio station without a graduate degree in journalism. Our music director has an English degree. I think having an English degree is a great idea because for me, it taught me analytical thinking and much better writing. You ask better questions if you’ve read good literature.

 

Interested in public radio? WHYY, the public media provider based in Philadelphia, offers a variety of internship opportunities for college students.

—Megan Dunn, ’16

 

Editors at Work: Psychology Today and Women Under Siege

Michele Hirsch teaches journalism at Manhattanville College, writes for Smithsonian Magazine and is a book review editor at PsychCentral. Previously, she was assistant editor at Psychology Today magazine and associate editor of the “Women Under Siege” reporting project, founded by Gloria Steinem.

Could you start by telling us a little bit about the trajectory of your editing career?

My first big foray into editing was when I was on the staff of Psychology Today magazine. My job was split between writing and editing, which for me anyway was pretty ideal. I got to write my own pieces and also conceive ideas, find freelancers and edit their work. So that, for me, was my first big editing job in the journalism world, but I was casually editing friends’ cover letters and other people’s essays from a pretty young age.

After Psychology Today, when I was asked to work for “Women Under Siege,” my job was again a hybrid of writing and editing. I loved the combination, and at “Women Under Siege,” we were starting from scratch with the website, which was a very different experience than at Psychology Today. At Psychology Today, I had just started to understand this process that was already in place that other people had been using for years, and at “Women Under Siege,” I helped craft it from the start and helped think about big-picture editorial things, not just line edits on a particular piece but also what kind of work were we going to do, what kind of people we wanted to write for us.

What’s one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

Psychology Today had a very big impact on me. Going through the print editing process, copy editing and making sure everything looked good, then getting a real magazine that I saw on newsstands, there’s nothing like that.

What kind of experiences should we be gathering right now to do this kind of work?

Editing your peers can be an incredible way to practice—and going outside of your comfort zone. It’s also a combination of trusting yourself and not being full of yourself. You have to not let your ego get in the way, and you have to admit to the person you’re editing—“Hey, I just need you to clarify what this means”—because otherwise you’re going to mess something up. You also have to put aside your “I’m the editor, I’m in charge” [mindset] and just ask them and have some humility about it.

How much do you think your own personal passions about topics feed into your work?

I think that a good editor or journalist should be able to work on anything. I always found psychology very interesting, even though I am no expert at all. That did feed into my ability as an editor and a writer at Psychology Today because any time you’re excited about something, I think you do better work. At “Women Under Siege,” the fact that I really cared about it did make it easier. I will say that when you are an editor at a place that writes about rape in war zones, especially as a woman, it is extremely psychologically taxing. You end up reading and editing and writing about completely horrific things, and if you don’t at least have some sort of passion about getting information out there about that subject, it would not necessarily be a good match.

 

Students  interested in applying for internships at the Women’s Media Center (the parent compnay of the “Women Under Siege” reporting project) should visit Women’s Media Center for more information.

—Angela Christaldi, ’17

Editors at Work: Philadelphia Magazine

Tom McGrath is chief content and strategy officer at Metro Corp., which publishes Philadelphia and Boston magazines.

How do you distinguish Philly Mag from your competitors?  

It’s not what we cover but how we cover it. Magazine writers have a point of view on the material whereas newspaper writers aren’t really in the story. They’re just presenting the facts. Magazine writers are encouraged to have a take on the story and bring a perspective and be engaging. We try to do that with our daily online stories too. We want the content to be fun, and we want to produce different stories.

Are there any advantages still to print?

For the print magazine, it’s still the best way to do longform journalism. No one wants to sit and read 5,000 words on their phone. It’s also more visually pleasing. It’s cooler to look at a beautiful photograph on a nicely printed magazine than it is on the tiny little screen on your phone. When it comes to print journalism, you can also be creative and in-depth.

How has the rise of digital media affected that print product?

Commercially, it’s affected advertising. The ad revenue for print has been flat for the past few years. However, ads on the website have gone up a lot. Digital has also affected the number of copies on the newsstand that have sold. I think digital media is just where people are getting their news from now. There’s not a need to pick up a magazine at the checkout line.

As a writer or editor, do you have one moment that has stood out to you as your biggest accomplishment?

Writing a book was fun. The day the box showed up with the first copies of the book was kind of cool.

What about in terms of Philly Mag?

I’m proud of the quality of the print magazine since I’ve been editor. We’ve won a whole bunch of awards since then. I’m also proud of the fact that we have been able to make this transition into the digital side of things. It wasn’t easy to do.

What do you look for in a potential writer for the magazine?

It’s a talent business. One of the things I look for when hiring is: Can you write? It sounds simplistic, but it’s the first thing I look for. The cover letter you send says something. Use it as an opportunity to write for me. Get the editor’s attention through the cover letter because I will dig down deeper.

Advice for students looking for jobs right out of college?

Start looking at smaller publications. They hire people without as much experience. I always tell people that you want any experience that you can get. An editor that wants to hire you wants to know you can do this, even if you weren’t paid for it.

 

Philadelphia Magazine offers editorial internships during the academic year and the summer. Internships are unpaid, and students must receive academic credit.

—Katie McLaughlin, ’16

Editors at Work: National Geographic

Emily Shenk Flory is the editorial quality assurance specialist at National Geographic in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Jillian Michelle

How did you get your start?

I’ve always been interested in writing and editing and got my earliest experience as the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook. I majored in journalism at [Loyola University Maryland] in Baltimore and had a variety of communications internships during that time. After college I did a variety of part-time and freelance gigs, including copy editing for newspapers, managing a literary magazine and writing travel articles for a Baltimore tourism publication. I moved to Washington, D.C., in 2007 and was the managing editor at the Child Welfare League of America for almost five years. During that time I got my  graduate degree in journalism by taking night classes at Georgetown University. I joined National Geographic in 2011.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Every day is very different, and it depends on what projects and other things are happening, but let me tell you about what my today looks like. I will be writing facts for the Atlas App, editing the “Photo of the Day” caption and working on a travel post on Manchester, England. A big part of my job is editorial quality assurance. I check for any errors that slip through like typos and make sure links aren’t broken. I’m looking at it all as a package before it goes live.

 What is your favorite part about your job?

I love to travel and am always planning my next trip. I’ve been to six continents so far. I like my job on the digital copy desk because I get to work with many different teams at National Geographic and see the incredible content they’re creating in adventure, culture, science and exploration. The best thing about this job is that I get to see the world from my desk every day.

Is there a project or piece of writing that has been your favorite to work on?

I’ve worked on many interesting projects, but I think the Deepsea Challenge project stands out because it was during my first year at National Geographic. We launched the Deepsea Challenge site while James Cameron was attempting his record-breaking dive to the deepest point in the ocean. It was exciting to read dispatches from the ship each day and play a small part in sharing the expedition with the world.

 Is working at National Geographic something you always wanted to do, or did the opportunity just happen to present itself?

 I always knew that I wanted to work for National Geographic, and I had tried to get in here for several years. I applied for 5–10 jobs before, and when I applied for this position, I finally got my first interview and am now here.

Why did you always want to work for National Geographic?

 I think most journalists can remember looking through National Geographic magazine as a kid and being completely captivated by the stories. I know I can. The sense of wonder National Geographic’s storytelling inspires is something that never gets old, and I say that as someone who now reads our content every single day. It’s an exciting place to be.

 

National Geographic offers a limited number of internship opportunities for college students. Internship positions are offered in various divisions at the company’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. For more information and to see listed internships, visit www.FoxCareers.com.

—Katherine Grygo ’16

Editors at Work: Philadelphia Weekly

Jackie Rupp is editor in chief of Philadelphia Weekly.

How did you become interested in journalism? 

I actually studied undergraduate at Penn State Abington with an integrative arts degree. I was initially interested in creative writing and fiction, but I gravitated towards journalism and became a freelance writer for many different writing companies, both nationally big and locally small. I had all types of work, from toy reviews for Disney to medical writing for a few years.

How did you start working for Philadelphia Weekly?

I started Philly Current magazine with a friend which still runs today, but I sold my share for a whopping $10! I was then the temporary editor for Philadelphia Weekly and then promoted to editor-in-chief, which surprised me because I thought I was just a placeholder until they found someone else.

How exactly would you describe Philly Weekly and its demographic?

Philly Weekly is an alternative news source where we try to focus on both the large stories in the Philadelphia area and the more grassroots smaller profiles. For instance we wrote Where Philly Would Be in 10 Years and my personal favorite Mipsters, or Muslim Hipsters. Our demographic is a bit surprising. Where we thought it would be say 18–29, it was more around 21–51. I think this is because these people started reading it in their college days and kept with it.

What is your day-to-day like as an editor?

I would say about 75 percent of my time I am reading other people’s work, changing errors, giving advice, you know, editor things. I oversee and assign writings to others. We have all freelance writers and no permanent staff, so getting a feel for another’s writing is both refreshing to have different styles and challenging to not have a consistent voice. The other 25 percent, I am frantically writing my own pieces, as the editor.

What advice would you give to aspiring journalists and editors?

Go where you want your name to be seen. Take it from me, who’s written on just about everything. I didn’t always enjoy medical writing, but it built my profile and got me where I am now. But if you love something, the hours really fly.

Where do you see both Philadelphia Weekly and yourself in 10 years?

Oh, that’s a tough question, but I think the better question is how long will handheld print be around? I’d like to definitely expand our name on social media but never lose sight of our personal approach with smart and entertaining coverage. As for myself, I hope to still be shopping in the junior section.

 

Interested in an editorial, multimedia or advertising internship at Philadelphia Weekly? Check out PW’s employment page or contact Jackie Rupp at Jacqueline@phillyweekly.com.

—Luke Antonello, ‘16