I see editing as more than just correcting AP style errors and misspelled words. As an editor, I strive to coach each writer to improve their voice and to tell stories with effective and beautiful style.
Finding Family Rewrite
This year, I had the opportunity to help one of my senior staffers, Daniel, write his finest piece of work. Since I'm not his copy editor, Daniel didn't ask me to edit his story until the night of the print deadline. I quickly realized that his draft had the potential to be disastrous for our publication. Daniel's feature told the story of an alumnus, Juan, who lived with an East family after becoming homeless.
There were several problems with Daniel's story. One was that his account made multiple libelous accusations against Juan's mother, who hadn't been interviewed.
My largest concern, however, was the lack of racial sensitivity in the first draft. Juan is black. At a predominantly white high school, the draft I read felt condescending — the story of a gracious white family saving a poor black kid. To make the situation more challenging, the family's last name was "White."
I took my concerns to the print editors and our adviser, then had Daniel call the SPLC. He and I spent six hours side by side writing and revising. He worked more that night, sending me drafts early the next morning so that we could still meet deadline.
The story turned out to be a piece that Daniel could truly be proud of and one that was both legal and ethical to print. It's one of my proudest achievements as an editor because although I didn't write a word of the story, I improved the piece and improved Daniel as a writer.