Copy That: The article that was never supposed to exist
The summer before my freshman year, I worried about what I was going to do in college. There was so much pressure to grow, to get involved, to build that résumé. One day, I received a copy of The Michigan Daily in the mail. And I thought: Why not? As a questioning, indecisive, undeclared English major, getting involved with journalism was probably a good idea.
But there was a problem. I didn’t like journalism. The thought of writing for a newspaper scared me. I liked to write, but I didn’t like to write articles. I felt like I couldn’t report news brilliantly or state strong opinions eloquently. I didn’t like the idea of being forced to write a certain number of pieces by a deadline. So much for that.
However, as I was browsing The Daily’s website, I found a section that stopped me mid-scroll: Copy Desk. I read the description, and I knew this was the role for me. I sent an email asking how I could join the copy desk and received an answer back from the copy chief. I starred the email and spent the rest of my summer keeping this job in the back of my head, looking forward to applying.
Before I knew it, I arrived on campus. I found The Daily at Festifall. I attended the mass meeting. I took the copy quiz. I shadowed shifts. I took the post-test. I got the job.
“When do you get promoted to writing articles?” many of my friends obliviously asked when I explained my new job to them.
“No,” I would reply. “I applied to be a copy editor. I don’t want to write ― I want to edit.”
This response is often met by confusion and polite, though piteous, chuckles. Who wants to fact-check news and opinion articles and correct grammar and style? How is that fun for anyone?
I didn’t realize how much I wanted to be a copy editor until I received the email congratulating me that I was in. Many of my fellow copy editors walked into the newsroom with the intent of joining another section ― news, opinion, sports, arts ― with the hopes of actually writing articles. I went in knowing the only thing I wanted to do was edit them. I made a beeline for the copy desk after the mass meeting, frantically avoiding all the other sections. Now, every time I go in for my shift, I make that same beeline.
I love words. I love English. And the copy desk offered me the perfect opportunity to do something I was passionate about in a way that I was comfortable doing.
But, my anxiety towards article-writing kept coming back to bite me. There was a voice in the back of my head ― an echo of everyone around me ― telling me that the work I do is inferior to the work I am editing.
Now, I know that voice is full of lies. The copy desk, one of the quietest sections in the newsroom, is my favorite section. There is a much underappreciated need for copy editors, and I enjoy the work I do. I don’t need to be on the frontlines interviewing the lead singer or star running back or presidential candidate to leave my mark on The Daily. In fact, the mark I leave from behind the copy desk is arguably more important.
But, college really is about getting involved and overcoming fears. And with that, we are here. I am happy to report that I have accomplished the one thing I wanted going into college ― joining the copy desk ― but I have also accomplished the one thing I wanted to avoid going into college ― writing for The Daily. With this Copy That, I have conquered that fear.
There are no objective facts here that can be fact-checked, yet they are undeniable facts to me. There is no strong, controversial opinion here, yet I feel strongly about this position.
For some people, Copy Desk is a backup option. For many more, Copy Desk is misunderstood. For me, Copy Desk is right where I belong.
This is my article, one I wrote rather than edited. And one article is enough for now. Baby steps ― even though this a giant leap for me.
So, thank you, Copy Desk, for giving me everything I wanted ― and everything I didn’t want as well.