Q: I am recently laid off from a small daily, where I was assistant managing editor. I am pursuing copy editing positions. My question has to do with requests for samples of my work. I have plenty of writing samples, but how do most applicants present copy editing samples? I would imagine the only useful samples would be those that show stories before and after editing.
I've asked reporters whose work I've edited to help me collect a few copies of the unedited versions of their stories, to submit along with the published versions. One reporter, however, questioned whether he would be subject to discipline for doing so. Can you tell me if it is standard practice for copy editors to acquire copies of unedited versions of stories that have already been published in the paper for purposes of adding to a work portfolio or as part of a job application?
A: The best things you can submit as a copy editor is a whistle-clean cover letter and résumé, along with a sheet of headlines you've written, some examples of your page design and a few examples of stories edited, with attached notes that explain what you did to help the story out.
Few editors will take the time to compare and contrast before and after versions of stories.
It had not occurred to me that there would be an ethical problem in submitting pre-edited versions of stories. Your reporter friend is reacting to the very real concerns of showing pre-publication stories to the public or to sources. I don't think there is a conflict in showing an editor before and after versions of stories you edit. I just don't think the editors will read them.