When the intern gets the final say

It’s odd when the intern’s the boss.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been editing PBS MediaShift’s Daily Must Reads, a collection of the latest news in media innovation and journalism industry trends. Though it often requires me making simple edits such as checking links and deleting commas, I often make much more substantive calls, such as nixing or pitching stories.

Julie Keck, our social media and newsletter author, typically takes my recommendations. Though she’s been working for MediaShift (and working in general) much longer than I have, I often have the final say.

A snapshot of emails exchanged between the author and Julie Keck before publication of PBS MediaShift's newsletter.

A snapshot of emails exchanged between the author and Julie Keck before publication of PBS MediaShift’s newsletter. It shows one error that, unfortunately made it into the newsletter.

The executive editor oversees the whole editing process and will jump in whenever’s necessary, but it’s seldom and often just a bit of guidance after it’s been published rather than an intervention (“For future reference…”).

It definitely creates a sense of responsibility. I look at everything I edit multiple times. If any edits slide through, it’s on me.

Julie certainly does her best not to include any errors, but that second pair of eyes is crucial. By human nature, it’s much easier to edit something we haven’t written ourselves. When we self-edit, we imagine words that aren’t there because we thought we typed them. I’m sure there are typos in my blog posts for the Career Center, which don’t get edited by anyone but me. I try my best to find all the mistakes, but I’m only human. (On a related note: If you ever see a typo in anything¬†I write, tell me! I want to fix it!)

It’s a heavy responsibility for an intern to have, to be the wall between a writer and our readers. Every mistake is a mark against MediaShift’s credibility, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

I’ve been an editor for two years now. If I don’t have that sensibility yet, I have a bigger problem then an extraneous Oxford comma.

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