Whenever anyone asks me what i do for a job, I’m always a bit stumped at how to answer. When I worked in my previous job, I would simply say. “I’m in PR.” It would be up to them to assume I had some upper level job, rather than serve as a glorified secretary for more than 20 years.
But since I’ve been working at my present task — a weekly suburban ethnic newspaper — I have had several functions.
- I am a reporter/writer. A nice piece on Salon.com discusses the not-so-subtle differences:
Not every reporter has to be a great writer. Conversely, some people who are good at moving other people’s words couldn’t pick up a phone, or write a piece themselves, if their life depended on it. This is why in the old days newspapers had “legmen” and “rewrite men.” Sometimes I think it might not be a bad idea to bring them back.
Given my basically shy nature, I see myself as better at the latter than the former. Although it’s much better being on this end of the conversation, rathern than as a PR functionary basically begging for media coverage of some inane event.
- I am also an editor. Originally I was an occasional copy editor, charegd with really going over stories and molding hem into shape. Now I handle the sports page and another section. I often write the sports stories myself and have a stable of freelancers who submit articles for the other section. I enjoy the editing process quite a bit, cutting and pasting writers’ disjointed thoughts into coherent text. Having been in their shoes, I also like to think I’m sensitive their parentage of these stories, and try not to do too much with them. Of course, when I get a 1,200-word piece where the space calls for 800 words, I have to decide whether to send it back and have them make the substantial changes (my preference for integrity’s sake) or just do it myself.
The worst thing is when a family member tells someone what I do and then turns to me and says, “You should to a story on this person.” That puts me in an awkward spot because nine times out of ten this person, as nice, charming, smart , etc. as he or she might be, there’s nothing extraordinary about their situation. It’s embarassing all around.
The summer is a bit slow. Congress is out of section, schools are closed, people are away. Sports has been surprisingly easy (knock on wood), given the requirements, but regular stories are more difficult to come by. Fortunately, the environment is easy-going and I seldom feel anxious about keeping up with my colleagues, who always seem to have something cooking.