We’ve all shed tears for stories we’ve written

John Coffelt

“How’s the new job going?” a board member asked me on the way to a meeting.

“Good, I’ve learned a lot this week,” I reply.

It has been a learning curve sitting at the editor’s desk this last few weeks, still I feel pretty confident with a few of the lessons I’ve learned on the job over the years. Most of these were taught in journalism 101, but, no, I had to study English.  Yep, I was studying Shakespeare sonnets — practical.

But here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1)      Never let them read a story before it goes to print. There’s no need, do your job, be objective and just write what they say.

2)      Never assume anything. If you think you know something, you’re wrong.

3)      Always have them spell their name. Everyone knows how they spell their name, except you. It’ll be wrong.

4)     Try to be objective. There’s a fine line between being passionate about a story and crossing over into letting personal feelings color the story.

5)      You only get five exclamation points to use in your whole career, use them wisely.

6)     Throw away the thesaurus. If you don’t know that  big word, you’re not going to use it right. Besides, using “utilize” over “use” is not going to make you look smart. 

7)      Never take anything from a source or promise them anything.

8)     Throw out your copy of Roberts Rules of Order, that’s not how meetings work. The discussion almost always precedes the motion and the second and the most interesting part of the meeting is probably going to be very, very vague in the agenda.

9)     You’re not Lois Lane. That’s not how journalism works. You but you name to a story because you know and can cite the information. Usually, that comes from meeting. Long and tedious meetings. 

10)   Being an editor is not just about being a copy editor. Those pesky mistakes that glare so much in the final print are annoying, but it’s the other content, the stuff you did right that is important.


Being relevant, accurate and objective and providing a service to your readers is what matters. Care about your product, write with integrity and hope for the best.