Q: I have no previous newspaper or journalism experience. I have a few published clips of Dave Barry style opinion and first-person narrative pieces, as well as a few CD reviews, both for national magazines in the US and Japan, and I suspect that neither of these will carry much weight at a newspaper.
I live in Tokyo, and I am a proofreader of scientific and technical journal articles written by nonnative English speakers. I am good at my job and I enjoy it, although I would prefer to be editing easier and more interesting material. When I return to the U.S., I would like to get a job as a copy editor, and I must live in Chicago. Is the competition too fierce in the major cities for one without specific newspaper experience?
What are the working hours and conditions of copy editors? Is it nonstop copy editing for eight hours (or whatever the shift is) a day? This is what I'm currently doing, and I don't think this pace could last a lifetime. Does there ever tend to be downtime or other projects for copy editors? Also, is it a job, unlike reporter or editor, in which you could do your time every day and then easily leave work at work when you are finished?
I was a school teacher in America. Is it true copy editors make less money than school teachers?
A: I'll try to answer a few of these:
You're right about your clips. Most editors will prefer candidates with clips that more nearly match the work they would hire the candidate to do.
Competition is stiff at the major metro papers. You'd be better off trying something on the fringes either geographically or conceptually.
Depending on the newspaper, copy editors generally have schedules that are crazier than others. Most news and sports copy editors at morning newspapers work evenings; they might work early at afternoon newspapers. Features and editorial copy editors tend to work something more similar to bankers' hours.
Yes, copy editors generally can leave their work at work.
The bigger and better the newspaper, the better the pay. The same may be said for teachers, I suppose.