From copy editing to reporting and back

by Anna Gallegos

Sometimes it takes the best internship you’ve ever had to realize that what you’re doing is not what you want to do.

By spending my time as a reporter this summer at The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, I realized that I wanted to return to copy editing.

Copy editing isn’t as glamorous as reporting. Superman was a reporter, not a copy editor, and there are far fewer jaunty fedoras with press passes tucked in the bands on the copy desk.

Copy editors are not night trolls butchering reporters’ quickly pounded-out articles, but rather perfectionists of the English language. I started my journalism career on the copy desk but decided to switch to reporting after seeing copy editing positions cut from prominent news desks. I didn’t want to devote my education to one aspect of journalism and be left out due to cutbacks.

I should have taken it as a sign that my intentions were wrong when my first internship offer through Chips Quinn was at the copy desk at the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. Instead of accepting it, I held out for something to validate my spur-of-the-moment dreams.

I landed in the San Francisco Bay Area – the West Coast mecca of journalism with Silicon Valley and countless hyperlocal news outlets catering to nearly every group in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

I enjoyed my time with the Tribune. My editors allowed me to cover everything from the Occupy movement to the closure of a landmark car dealership to the Hans Reiser civil trial. It was exhilarating to talk intimately to people from a region that was previously foreign to me.

But when a Tribune photographer was robbed at gunpoint while on an assignment we were collaborating on, I realized that being on the front line of news gathering wasn’t for me. Something rubbed me the wrong way about putting myself out in a city with a high crime rate.

Throughout my internship, I compared my work endlessly to that of fellow Chipsters. Their stories were making A1, mine weren’t. They were interviewing key figures in their communities, I wasn’t. There was this nagging feeling that I wasn’t giving my newsroom my all.

Only after I said my goodbyes in Oakland did I realize that I didn’t give my newsroom my all because that nagging feeling was my gut telling me to go back to copy editing and that I got into reporting for all the wrong reasons.

Most student reporters I’ve met are reporters because they want to be the voice of a community. I became a reporter because I didn’t want to be the English nerd without a job in the field that I love. My intentions were not genuine.

I didn’t want to admit that I was misguided until I got to the UNITY convention in Las Vegas in August and talked to established professionals. A recruiter from The Seattle Times told me exactly what I needed to hear: “Newsrooms will always need good copy editors.”

Maybe I was wrong all along.

Copy editing, will you take me back?

Anna Gallegos is a journalism and creative writing senior at the University of Houston. She was a Summer 2012 Chips Quinn Scholar for The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune. Gallegos has been the editor in chief of The Venture, a start-up newspaper directed at minority college students in Houston. She completed a year-long internship at the Houston Chronicle as a reporter, Web producer and copy editor. She also covered minor league hockey for, a sports news site run by college students. She is currently a social media intern at Consumer Media Network, which she describes as “a lifestyle blog (that) meets financial advice.”



  1. Tony C. Yang

    It takes a wise person to realize their strengths and weaknesses; it takes a wiser person to learn this early on. All the best to you as you prevent misspellings and poor grammar from marring the pages of whatever newsroom you land in.

    Good luck Anna!


    Tony C. Yang
    CQS Summer ‘05 (Oakland Tribune)
    Spin Boldak, Afghanistan

  2. Marci Turner

    I really liked your column and your honesty. I’m also glad you had the experience and opportunity to see what it would be like to pursue something because of fear. I say– Follow your heart but be open to change. If you are doing something you love and you are gifted at it, you will be okay regardless of what others are saying.

  3. I totally agree with Tony Yang, everything takes practice.

    Anyway, great post, thanks a lot! :-)

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