My passion for writing, indifference toward copyediting

A reflection on the fall semester and my current journalistic endeavors.

By Heather Nelson 

Initially, it would’ve appeared that my fall semester would include me spending numerous hours behind a computer screen and a large chunk of time working my schedule around student-athletes’.  At least, this was the case in the first few weeks of the semester.

The University Daily Kansan hired me as the sports enterprise writer. I quickly learned the amount of time I would not only put into writing each story, but also reporting each one. Meeting with student-athletes isn’t easy, especially the athletes playing for the revenue sports. (Football players are only available to media on Wednesdays, etc…)

I learned to become best friends with the sports information director, to contact him often and to be assertive with my requests. Of course, because I wasn’t a beat writer my deadlines were a bit more lenient. I set up my own schedule, which was nice…for a while.

The first feature-enterprise story I wrote was for the Back-to-School issue, which debuted before all students were back on the University’s campus. I highlighted the women’s track team’s win at the NCAA National Championship over the summer. Following that story, I was excited for the direction my editors had in mind for the sports section. My position would add flair to the usual previews and gamers.

My first published article in the University Daily Kansan.
My first published article in the University Daily Kansan.

After I became settled in my routine, I sought out a story within the women’s soccer team. I found a great story within the team — one of the starters had overcome a great deal to come back after a year of ineligibility.  I knew the story was mine — no one else had it. I spent weeks reporting: I spoke with the player’s friends from home, teammates and coaches.

The night before I compiled the 1,000-word feature, the local newspaper broke the story. I was devastated. I felt like a failure. I had a talk with my editor; we re-outlined my feature, and the final result was published the next day.

…After that I wrote two more stories for the Kansan: a soccer recap and one breaking the news of a volleyball player’s personal record. (I had previously written a Big 12 football notebook).

Yes, the semester got busier; I could use that excuse. I did reach out to my editors a few times asking for advice on the kinds of stories I should search for, but I should’ve reached out in person. I slacked off…

I spent most of my time this semester editing other sports writers’ pieces rather than my own. It wasn’t a bad thing, but I missed what I enjoyed doing most: telling people’s stories.

Writing is my passion. And while I do enjoy editing — trust me I do — I don’t find myself to be as good at it or as passionate about it as others. My sports reporting class required a lot of me, sometimes causing my focus to shift from the Kansan to classwork. And instead of writing this semester, I spent the bulk of my time studying for other classes, volunteering with my church and deepening my faith.

All of these are good things…

For the spring semester, I’ve been promoted — for lack of a better term — to copyedit online sports material for the Kansan. Even though I haven’t been given the opportunity to write for the school newspaper, I’ll sharpen my skills as a journalist. I’ve seen my own writing improve from editing copy.

I’ve found solace in my current endeavors. It’s not quite how I’d envisioned it, but I’m still learning.

***

My goal for this blog, as I’ve previously stated in other posts, is to share my portfolio and also voice my opinion on topics that interest me. I hope to keep up with that over the winter break and through next semester.

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