Mandan News

Six months as editors: other lessons learned on the path

Observations of a News Editor
Dustin White

In my last column, I discussed doing photography in regards to being the editor of the Mandan News. I figured this week I would continue with the subject of being editor.

When I took this position, I hadn’t had experience as an editor. While I often helped either my wife or classmates with editing some of their school work, and I worked in public relations for a small business, this was largely a new frontier for me.

Besides delving into photography, I have also found myself picking up many other “hats” as well. When I’m not busy snapping pictures, I end up spending a good deal of time researching. This is an area that I am much more adept at. Having attended college for religious studies, I have had a lot of experience tackling a wide array of subjects.

Doing research for a newspaper has been a bit different though. While I was writing a research paper for one of my classes, I often had weeks to read through all of the material, examine the credibility of the various authors, find additional sources to support my claims and eventually compose the final paper.

With the news, the time period is largely slashed. Instead of weeks, sometimes it is only a matter of days, if not hours. It also isn’t just my work that I have to research. Instead, I attempt to do basic research on all the stories that pass through my desk, whether that be a press release, column or other piece of news.

On a number of occasions, I have found myself rejecting certain stories because they are not credible. However, there have also been cases in which stories have slipped by. Luckily, we have a great community who isn’t afraid to offer responses, and respectful ones at that.

Performing research is a task I thoroughly enjoy though, so the opportunity to explore such a wide array of new subjects has been welcomed. Coming to work each day and not knowing what story I may be looking at is something I look forward to. Especially when the topic is something suggested by the community, as I know they will appreciate the overall piece.

This research has also allowed me to explore the history of the area. Before taking this position, I knew very little of the events that helped formed the community. Morton County is full of a rich and exciting history that only needs to be explored.

At the same time, I remember something that Ken Rogers said when he retired. Working in this industry also allows one to be active in the history; to record the history. That truly is an exciting endeavor. Part of recording the history means meeting with the wonderful people in the community, which there are many.

Recording history, as well as writing other general stories, can be quite daunting though. There are many times I find myself just staring at my computer screen. Sometimes, it’s done in a panic as I know I only have a few hours before the paper goes to printing. Other times, it is at 1 or 2 in the morning, after having spent numerous hours writing or finishing a variety of stories, and drinking several cups of coffee.

There have been a couple of aspects of the position that were a little more nerve-wracking though. Having attended college, I was used to long nights and large amounts of research and writing. However, I wasn’t used to designing and laying out a newspaper. While I had some experience with using the software necessary to do so, it was many years ago since I last used any. So, I largely went into the process blind.

I had really good teachers though. Sandy Fettig, who trained me in on the system, explained the process wonderfully. The additional tips I received from Rogers also addd greatly to my work experience and design ideas.

That is something great about this community though; the willingness to help out. Sure, they were training in a new employee, but the extent in which they went, and the patience that they showed, wasn’t something that was necessary.

In the end, this position has been quite rewarding, even though it parts of it was unexpected. Over the last six months though, I do believe I have picked up on the duties quite well. Over all, even though the work can be challenging, I do enjoy it.

Here’s hoping that you’ve enjoyed it as well.