Questions for a Newspaper Copyeditor: Gerri Berendzen
Gerri Berendzen has been a newspaper copyeditor since 1982. She is currently the editorial production coordinator at The Quincy Herald-Whig, a position she has held for 15 years, and is on the executive board of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES).
Tell us a little bit about your position at the newspaper.
I’m the editorial production coordinator at The Quincy Herald-Whig, which means I do editing, web production, page design and supervise the desk. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. When I was editor of the college newspaper at Saint Louis University I used to edit by cutting and taping paragraphs from typed copy paper. Now I spend as much of my day on the Web as on the print product.
How is your work at The Quincy Herald-Whig different from the teaching and other work you do?
I teach Mass Communications at a local college, and that’s big picture work. My day job is detail oriented. My students constantly surprise me. While there are a lot who never go beyond the Internet for information, there are young adults who still enjoy the newspaper. (Or they say they do; perhaps they think they’ll get a better grade.)
I’m the editor of the American Copy Editors Society newsletter — which is exactly like my day job. I just don’t get paid for it.
What resources are particularly helpful to your area of editing?
I use Wordnik.com almost every day. In my early days I always had a Roget’s, and Wordnik is so much better. And I use the AP Stylebook a lot. Although there are places where I disagree and where my publication diverges, I still think having a stylebook is useful, because I don’t have time to reinvent things daily. Use a stylebook, but don’t be a slave to it.
A great reference that I actually use in book form is Math Tools for Journalists by Kathleen Woodruff Wickham. It’s filled with plug-in-the-numbers formulas that are extremely useful. I picked it up in 2006 at an ACES conference and still use it frequently.
What fortune-cookie-sized advice would you give other editors interested in newspaper editing or in expanding their editing from newspapers to other areas?
Don’t just embrace change, try to direct it.
What comes to mind when you think about interesting projects you’ve worked on?
Recently my company has been doing books, and I especially enjoyed editing a couple of books on local history.
I once freelance edited a grant proposal for a bunch of engineers who had tried for three years to get this grant. That was enlightening. I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand parts of speech. They definitely were unclear on verbs. Of course, I don’t understand electrical engineering. They thought I cut too many pages. But they got the grant.
If you weren't editing, what would you like to try as a career?
I don’t see myself not working with words. Nothing fascinates me more. I would teach, but it would be something to do with communication. Or I would write. I’m fascinated by photography, but I’m not great at it.
I’d consider something musical, but I can’t see anyone paying me to sing. So perhaps lyricist.
In the Broadway adaptation of your story, what's the big number?
“Conjunction Junction” ‘cause I’m always “hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”
Image courtesy of pasa47.