Weber County Scouts have questions about an editor's job

Dec 31 2011 - 8:42am

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Andy Howell
Andy Howell

Periodically we get letters from Boy Scouts, many seeking to fulfill requirements for a merit badge.

The letters usually involve the scouts giving their opinions on subjects important to them, which we often print with our other letters to the editor.

Recently, however, I received a batch from some Weber County Scouts who asked questions about my job, which called for individual responses.

Here are the letters and my replies. The letters were handwritten, so I had to decipher some of the meaning.

Dear Editor,

What do you consider the most important story you have edited? There have been many stories through the years so it would be very hard to choose, but our past is almost as important to our future. It is also interesting to many people to enjoy local history.

Sincerely,

Mason

Dear Mason,

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I awoke to the television image of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center and realized America was under attack.

The day's newspaper already had been printed, but we decided to put out an extra edition that morning. It was my job to pick and edit the stories for this historic section. It has now become a keepsake for some to remind them of this horrific day and how we must remain diligent so it never happens again.

Dear Editor,

What do you consider the most important story you have written so far? What do editors do? When I grow up I want to become a veterinarian. I think that animals are so cool.

Sincerely,

Max

Dear Max,

Most journalists will tell you the most important story is the next one they write. However, the most memorable story I worked on came early in my career.

Back before Al Gore invented the Internet, I was editor and reporter (actually I was the only employee) of a small newspaper in Page, Ariz. Larry Hagman, a well-known actor at the time, was in town making a movie with the scenic backdrop of the region. During the filming, a prop helicopter crashed in the Colorado River, killing two members of the film crew and the pilot.

Rumors spread that Hagman was on the helicopter. Because Page was so isolated, I ended up helping cover the story for different news organizations, calling in my story and quotes from people at the scene.

Hagman was not on the helicopter that crashed, although some entertainment tabloids decided to embellish how close he was to getting on the doomed copter in spite of the information I supplied.

What do editors do? If you ask some reporters, they might say we get in the way of a good story. But because you asked me, I'd say editors make stories better.

There are basically three types of editors: Assignment editors give reporters stories to do. Content editors help reporters develop and craft stories. And copy editors look for grammatical and spelling errors. These days, though, most of these responsibilities are done by one editor.

Dear Editor,

Do you guys hate all the work! If so email me ... so I can do one story. I deeply wish on the first star I see I could be a reporter and do a story on Wahlquist Jr. High. Wouldn't everybody love to see a story about a good Jr. High trying, well did, to raise money for kids who are poor? We do one called Sub for Santa.

Sincerely,

Miguel

Dear Miguel,

Most editors love their work. We feel we have an important responsibility to inform the public about things they need and want to know.

I would encourage you to pursue your dream. If you want to write a story about your school's Sub-for-Santa program, I'm sure we could find a way to publish it.

Dear Editor,

I would like to write to you about how's it possible to fit News with all the Classifieds that you have. I think you should have a whole section for just classifieds. The rest of the sections can be about news. This way people can find the classifieds easier.

Sincerely,

Taren

Dear Taren,

Actually, the newspaper does have a separate classified advertising section. It is usually located in the back of the newspaper.

The news parts of the paper are divided up into the A section, where we place important local, national and world news; the local section called Top of Utah (Davis for our Davis County readers), where we place local and community news; and the Sports section.

We have other news sections that appear on different days of the week or month, such as GO! It comes out every Friday and includes entertainment stories such as movie reviews, concert and arts previews and features about people in the entertainment field.

Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or ahowell@standard.net.

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