Newspaper copy editors need to be looking for another line of work. We don’t need worthless Knight Ridder stock certificates to figure this out; just the ability to answer this question: Will they hire somebody to replace us after we leave? If not, it means they can get by without us, and the best thing we can do for ourselves and our employers is get another job. It’s win-win: We save them the expense of our salaries and save our own financial hides by working for somebody who considers us essential.
So, who needs us? More people than you might think — the trick is having a willingness to specialize. If you like nice things like new cars and fine foods, start where the money is: Technical, medical and financial. You’ll see a lot of want ads in corporate communications or marketing — either one is a perfectly respectable way to make a living, but I suspect they’d be soul-killers for the average newspaper hack. There will be openings at universities, where the pay will be lousy, and perhaps government, where the benefits will be good but the fun quotient negligible. Don’t be lulled into online if there’s no path to profitability (exception for Bay Area folks and others who have access to venture capital-funded start-ups).
All that gets us back to following the money:
- Tech: Houses that cost $80,000 in most towns sell for $800,000 in Silicon Valley, a rough measure of the value of high-tech expertise. You won’t make 10 times more money as a technical editor, but if you can score one of these jobs it’s safe to say you’ll do better than you did at the newspaper.
- Medical: There will always be more demand for better health than modern medicine will be able to provide. Medical information providers need editors who can translate how a pancreas works into language the rest of us can understand.
- Financial: As long as there is greed, there will be work in the money industry. Newsletters and financial advisers often have a specialized (and lucrative) customer base, and your knowledge of news will be valuable.
So, where to look?
If there’s a Craigslist for your city, start at the “writing/editing” jobs link. (Here’s the one for the Bay Area). Competition will be stiff in big cities like New York and Chicago, but you might have a competitive edge in a smaller metros because there will be few qualified copy editors (except your co-workers); downside: there won’t be many opportunities. With Craigslist, you often send an e-mail directly to the hiring editor, which can give you a leg up. Impersonal forms at large corporate sites are worthless (as are, I suspect, most of the jobs).
What about JournalismJobs.com? It’s worth a look, but keep in mind everybody else in the industry is watching the same ads. The ACES job board occasionally has non-newspaper jobs and allows sending direct appeals to hiring editors.
Also, you can use RSS feeds to aggregate several job searches into an RSS feed reader, so you can always track a large number of openings specific to your needs without having to visit a large number of job boards.
The main thing is to keep trying, and keep trying some more. Mass-market publications like newspapers are simply going away because people don’t want them anymore. You can howl at the dark or move toward the light — the place where there’s still a market value for mastery of the English language.
Now start clicking.