Q: I hear all the time it's going to be an asset in the future to be well-rounded as a journalist. Does this apply to someone with experience in both copy editing and reporting? I have done both and enjoy both, but am always told it would come off negatively as indifference if I said that in an interview. I graduated from j-school in May and have been a reporter at a small daily for several months now. Previously, I was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern and heavily involved as a reporter and editor at my college daily.
Out of the blue, I was recently contacted by a major metro paper asking me to apply for a copy editing position, and I'm torn. Colleagues tell me I shouldn't unless I'm absolutely certain I would rather copy edit. Regardless of what I decide, does it really have to be that black and white? I know the simple answer is I have to pick one, but in doing so does it sound bad to recruiters if I say I enjoy the other discipline as well? Maybe it's just me, but it has seemed like the variety on my resume in terms of copy editing and reporting has been more of a hindrance than an asset. Thanks for doing this column, and I'd appreciate any advice you have.
A: Flexibility is more of an asset once you are in a job than it is when you are looking for one.
Editors often interview trying to see where you fit into the newspaper's needs, current or future. A person who has more than one "fit" might come across as being indifferent, as you say.
Once hired, though, the person who can spring up and help in different parts of the newsroom -- or in developing ones -- is seen as helpful, adaptable and flexible.
The particular problem for the reporter/editor combo is that there are so many more reporting resumes than editnig resumes on the editor's desk at any one time that it can be difficult for a staffer to move from the desk to the street than the other way around. Essentially, filling a reporting job with an editor make the job of hiring that much tougher.
The strategy, of course, is to be very, very good so that they'll move you rather than risk losing you.