This is not an exit

New Beginnings

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Yesterday I posted this story to my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Not only is it a great piece, but it’s the story I copy edited that landed me the position of copy chief at Flux Magazine. Well, current copy chief Kendall Fields edited the piece you read — you did read it, right? — but she sent a rough draft of the story to prospective copy editors to test their chops.

I wanted to be a writer. I ended up applying for a copy editor position. Then I landed one of the few senior staff positions on the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s flagship magazine.

If anything else, this occurrence is proof that anything can happen in life. From September 2009 to June 2011, I was a newspaper man. I was the managing editor, then chief at The Torch at Lane Community College. I was the Snowden foundation intern at the Yamhill County Valley News-Register summer 2010. Then I reported for The Oregon Daily Emerald‘s Scene section summer 2011. And I loved all of it.

I came to a realization just before my first term at the University of Oregon. You’ve heard that college is a time to experiment, right? Of course you have. But the images that prevail when you hear that usually involve sex and drugs. For me, it means breaking out of the standards I’ve worked within ever since I was 16 and stepped into the newsroom at McMinnville High School. For me it means so long, AP style. Adios, brief, concise newswriting. And sayonara, inverted pyramid.

Last December I had the opportunity to leave my post as the editor of The Torch and work for a professional newspaper in Washington. I didn’t take it. After consulting with my advisers, my managing editor from The News-Register and a few friends, I decided to finish college. The primary reason was that if I went straight to work without a degree, it was just an excuse for someone to pay me less than somebody else who earned that sheepskin.

Four months later I read Sam: The Boy Behind The Mask by The Oregonian’s Tom Hallman, Jr. and I was enthralled. If you haven’t read the Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles, it’s about a Portland teen who was born with a bulge on his head that housed a series of inoperable blood vessels. Sam was about his struggle to fit in despite his ailment — he often had to stay home sick because of medical complications — in addition to his desire to look like everyone else.

The story moved me. How was Hallman able to convince the boy’s family to let him hang around during some of their most desperate times? What moved people to discuss their lives at length with a stranger? And how could anyone have the resolve to spend so much time with a single family during those moments?

I didn’t really think about these questions again until just before I started classes in September. With The Torch and The Emerald behind me, I started to wonder how I might get involved with a campus magazine that would allow me to work on a piece like this. It turns out all I had to do was apply.

I was encouraged to inquire at Flux by my media professions professor, one of the magazine’s two founders. I sat down with him and showed him my Snowden portfolio. We spoke about my goals, my lack of experience with magazine writing and desire to gain it. His response when I asked if it would be a good idea to start so high was “go for it.”

So I did.

As I said, I originally applied as a writer. I ended up interviewing for a copy editor position. And when it came to it and Kendall called me after the interview, I was chosen as the leader of the copy desk. Bill Ryan, the professor who encouraged me to apply, gave me amazing advice after I told him about how I felt my interview went. I approached him after class the day before I sat down with Kendall and Maya Lazaro, the magazine’s managing editor for print. Dr. Ryan asked for Maya’s email address so he could send her a recommendation.

Upon thanking Dr. Ryan for his referral, he sent me the following:

“Don’t forget those who support you … and off that, look for fire in the belly of others you can support.”

It reminded me of something Mark Witherspoon, the adviser for the Ohio State University student newspaper once told me:

“An editor’s job is to give the people who work for him all of the tools they’ll need to succeed. Another way to look at it is that you work for them.

And that’s exactly what I plan on doing when I lead my team of copy editors come winter term. After finals are over next week, I’m going to chart out what I can offer the three editors who are working below me for whom I’ll be working next term.

I’ve made it this far and I haven’t even been accepted into the School of Journalism and Communications yet. I have a feeling I might make the cut.

  1. Ahem. That would be Yamhill *Valley* News-Register. C’mon, intern. 😉

  2. Dude, the Dean reposted your blog, you’ll get in.

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