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 theovertimepage.com, 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.”