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Opinion | The art of failing: What I've learned as an editor

Farewell from the News Editor

By Emily Crane
On May 1, 2014

Editing is not my thing. It was never a dream of mine to be an editor, to spend my nights pouring over lines and lines of copy looking for stray commas and trying to remember the difference between "council" and "counsel." When I accepted the job as news editor for The Miami Student, I didn't do it because I thought I would love it; I accepted because I wanted to see growth in the newspaper and I thought I could do a thing or two to help. Little did I know just how much growth I would see in myself.

Before, like many of you most likely, I took for granted how easy it must be to do this job well. Surely, those spelling mistakes must jump off the page to anyone with any knowledge of the English language. A blank photo caption should be glaringly obvious, right? I assumed that if I put in the requisite amount of effort, I should be able to ensure an error-free newspaper. And as a bit of a perfectionist, I really wasn't interested in anything less than that.

Well, after nine months as news editor, I've grown convinced there is no such thing as an error-free newspaper. Even on nights when we were in the newsroom until 1 a.m., checking and double-checking every headline, byline and article, there were always mistakes that slipped through somehow.

Some prizewinners include the misspelling of "marajuana" and "descrimination" in headlines and allowing three columns of filler text to get printed.

Working for The Miami Student has been a lesson in how to fail - a lesson I needed to learn. Before this job, it seemed anything I put my mind to I could succeed in. Here, that's not the case..At The Miami Student, we fail with a fair amount of regularity - and rarely do our mistakes go unnoticed and unpunished. We've published only a few of the letters we get (faculty are generally the harshest) berating us for our incompetence and stupidity.

Initially, I took every criticism as a personal affront. I joined with the letter-writers in kicking myself over every mistake, small or large, promising myself it wouldn't happen again, that I would be perfect next time. But the tally of failures only continued to grow and the letters didn't go away. I realized I needed to stop wearing myself thin with the impossible task of trying not to fail - and instead focus on learning how to fail well. I needed to learn how to take useful criticism in stride and let useless jabs roll off my back. I needed to learn how to acknowledge my shortcomings, learn what I could from them and then keep moving forward.

And of course, it hasn't been all failure. Not by a long shot. I take great pride in what we've been able to accomplish at The Miami Student this year. I've seen us greatly improve the quality of our writing and our coverage of breaking news events, I've seen our social media use skyrocket and we now have a fairly steady stream of content being published online on the days we don't print. We've become more efficient in our editing and production process, we've developed closer relationships with our writers and we've created new partnerships with other student media.

Looking back, I have a lot to celebrate, including my own growth as a writer and reporter. I've learned a lot about writing concisely and structuring my stories effectively by cutting other people's stories and restructuring them. I've learned about how to (and how not to) handle some very ethically-delicate stories, such as student suicides. In managing a newsroom of 10 other editors and dozens of writers, I've learned about how to be an effective leader.

I am grateful for all that The Miami Student has given and taught me - but more than anything, I am grateful that it taught me how to fail.

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