Q: I'm in my late 30s with 15 years of newspaper experience. Starting out, I wanted to be a reporter, but hiring editors offered me copy editing jobs instead, and I quickly became pigeonholed. Applying for reporting jobs led only to offers for more copy desk jobs.
Finally, two years ago, I quit my job as a copy editor at a large major metro and took a huge pay cut to be an assistant city editor at a 40K-circulation paper. People said I was crazy, but I feel much more comfortable in my new role.
Now, after two years of success as an assistant city editor, I want to move up to a similar job at a larger paper (and eventually work my way back to a major metro). But I'm finding that many of those bigger papers insist on several years of reporting experience and want to see writing clips as well as editing clips. Editors seem to prefer hiring people who came up through the reporting ranks rather than the copy desk ranks. Any suggestions on how I can compensate for my lack of reporting experience and use my background to my advantage?
A: I'm glad to see you made the move to editing. Those jobs are valuable, and I think you'll be able to work your way out of it.
Part of it will be mix. You'll find a desk that needs someone with your skills and will be happy to bring you on. In the meantime, use as clips some of the major projects you have run, or breaking news stories where you have coordinated coverage.
In cases like yours, I think it is valuable to have references from reporters who can attest to your ability to help them grow.
There is no need to apologize for what you have done, but be ready to show people that you can exercise news judgment, coach reporters and edit stories with anyone who ever carried a notebook.