On a Vital Team of Editors, 2 Interns Learn Valuable Lessons

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The first questions we had been requested as interns at The New York Times had been often: “What do you do there? Where can I see your work?”

Well, that’s a bit tough as a result of we labored on the Flex desk.

When we advised individuals exterior The Times that we printed our first articles, they had been confused as to why our names weren’t included. They had been puzzled why we weren’t out within the streets conducting interviews or scrolling our telephones for sources. They didn’t perceive that we spent the summer season working alongside a SWAT group of editors who’re really unsung heroes of the newsroom.

The Flex desk could not have a recognizable identify like Styles, Books or Sports, nevertheless it exemplifies enhancing at its best, which is covert safety.

The editors on the Flex desk function a form of final protection earlier than Times journalism reaches readers, making the language clearer, catching errors in articles, headlines, captions, movies — you identify it — and sustaining Times requirements in fashion and grammar. They’re those who see the shore if a reporter is misplaced in a sea of phrases.

Every piece of information at The Times is edited by at the least two individuals apart from the author. Typically, an editor in that reporter’s division will have a look at the article first. Until a few years in the past, a copy editor in that very same division would learn it second.

In 2017, nevertheless, The Times eradicated the copy desk, and this determination wasn’t met with out controversy. It quickly turned clear that “there was a glaring need to restore some of the ancillary luxuries that a copy desk had once afforded,” in accordance with a observe from our boss, Peter Blair. This turned the motivation behind the Flex desk’s creation in February 2019.

Now, when different departments need assistance, a second learn will probably be carried out by editors like us on the Flex desk, who can learn any piece of textual content from wherever within the newsroom. In reality, sooner or later, one of our colleagues on the Flex desk edited this very piece. (And for whoever did that: Thank you!)

Editing for fashion means guaranteeing that articles are constant in the way in which phrases and names are offered. For instance, we all the time spell out “United States,” as a substitute of saying simply “U.S.,” if it’s used as a noun, besides in headlines, digital summaries, sure newsletters, charts and social media posts. (There are seemingly a whole bunch of guidelines like this.)

Editing will be tough and delicate while you’re a new face, particularly while you edit an article by a veteran reporter. However, we couldn’t have been higher educated, and we dived headfirst into this world. We had been taught the right way to refine our “editing eye,” to look out for dangling modifiers, look ahead to situations the place a phrase or phrase might be misinterpreted and spot passages the place an article’s tone simply appeared off. It was the perfect English class we’ve ever taken.

Every day, we’d learn articles from throughout the newsroom. We edited tales about Olympic data, the Delta variant and scientific discoveries about fireflies. Our 10 weeks glided by in a blink, however additionally they felt like a lifetime. We realized greater than we might ever think about, not solely concerning the matters we coated but additionally about how painstaking, related journalism is completed.

We additionally witnessed almost a whole newsroom function nearly. Reporters and editors produced inventive and boundary-pushing journalism from their dwelling rooms, and we realized the skeletal foundations of enhancing in our bedrooms. Instead of listening to workplace noises just like the ringing of telephones, a cacophony of clacking keyboards or the murmurs of colleagues, the noises of our block turned the soundtrack to our workweek. Having your fridge close by wasn’t the worst factor on the planet.

Throughout this internship, we realized helpful issues you can’t take up in a classroom. The enhancing course of isn’t a monolith, and errors occur. Journalism is about humanity on the finish of the day, and people make errors. But after we do, we admit it, appropriate it and attempt to do higher subsequent time. And on the Flex desk, there’s all the time a subsequent time. Usually on deadline.