A Day in the Life of a Copy Editor.

Day in the Life post six! This week, I spoke to James Briscoe, who is 27 and is a copy editor.


Here is what James had to say!

How did you get into your job? 

Before I was hired in my ‘dream job’ I did an English degree, my NCTJ (journalism) qualifications and gained plenty of relevant work experience, usually unpaid, although many of my colleagues came in to the job straight from university (lucky!).

I had a lot of failed job interviews before I finally landed my current role. The reasons for my failings ranged from not having enough experience to not having the appropriate skills or interests (because I was so desperate for a job that I was applying for positions that just didn’t suit me).

Anyway, I saw the ‘Graduate Copy Editor’ vacancy online and, after reading the job description, I felt I was more than capable of fulfilling the role. And I got the job!

What do you like about your job?

The most enjoyable thing about my job is when I’m fortunate enough to work on a really interesting story. Sometimes I edit the copy of travel pieces where, for example, someone has ventured off to a snowy clime and been dragged on a sled by huskies. Or maybe there’s a really touching reason behind a man’s endurance challenge.

A big part of my job is writing headlines so when I manage to come up with something that’s witty, fits in to the page template, and is also relevant, I feel a great sense of satisfaction.

I mustn’t forget that it’s amazing to work with like-minded people and help each other come up with a good headline or give each other advice.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

I work in a large copy editing ‘hub’ which is miles away from most of the offices of the newspapers we work on so there can be communication issues which lead to frustration.

Some days I don’t feel as creative as others and experience ‘writer’s block’ where it feels like I’ve used up all my wit and great headlines aren’t easy to write.

What do you think are some of the challenges in the creative sector?

I have limited experience of the creative sector outside of journalism but I would say one of the main challenges for someone like me is when you have to sacrifice creativity. I recently read a great article by the late art director, Linds Redding, A Short Lesson in Perspective, where he talks about how over the years working in advertising he was given less and less time to come up with and develop ideas he was happy with and how, due to this, the quality of his work suffered.

I think it’s clear to most that the fact we work for businesses who need to make money is the main challenge. Time is money, as they say.

If you did a degree, how has it helped you?

My degree gave me some confidence and is nice to have on my CV. If I could do everything again though, I would go straight in to an NCTJ journalism course, because that was infinitely more worthwhile for me, my experience, and, I believe, my future prospects. Everyone has a degree so it doesn’t really make you stand out.

I should add I wasn’t the hardest working or mature student. You can’t put an old head on young shoulders and, at the time, I didn’t realise the value of the opportunity I had. So, if you’re lucky enough to go to university, it’s up to you to make it the most worthwhile experience possible!

Why did you pick to work the sector that you work in? 

I wanted to be a journalist since I was a child after I realised writing stories was my main ‘practical’ talent. Like many, I dreamed of being a professional footballer/skateboarder/bmxer/basketball player etc, but I knew it was more realistic to pursue a career writing in some form (and I could never stick to one sport).

Describe a typical day in your job. 

I work a different shift each week for four weeks and then it starts again. Some weeks I work 3pm-11.30pm and others I work 8am-4.30pm. When I get in to work I log on to a computer and start working on stories for newspapers that are closest to their deadline. We work on a large number of daily and weekly newspapers (mainly weeklies) so there is a wide range of stories we see, from sport to crime, to car reviews and property pages. Some days are busier than others because there are more newspapers out the next day.

Any advice for people wanting to get into your sector and/or the creative industry?

If you want to be a journalist or go in to some sort of creative role, you should simple do whatever it is you want to do. If you want to be a graphic designer, get on your computer, or get a pen out, and design something. If you want to be a journalist, write every day. You’ll get better and better and your self belief will grow. Make friends with other creative people and work together on projects if you can. Create a portfolio of your work to show off how good you are and make sure your CV and online profiles show you in the best possible light.

At the end of the day, what’s left is your love for the thing you want to make a career out of, and other people will see that and believe in you.


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