By Erica Jones
When I went to watch Julian Emerson work as an editor for the Eau Claire newspaper, Leader-Telegram, he was juggling several tasks at once. I found out many of his days are like this.
Even with the police scanner constantly emitting static, police reports and miscellaneous beeping noises, everyone in the editorial department was hard at work. They seemed to not be phased by any outside sounds.
After spending about four hours with Julian, I realized that “editor” might be a position I could see myself in one day. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since eighth grade, but this experience shed a light on a new but related option. I’m not the first one to be stuck between choices. After all, Julian always thought he would be a sports reporter, but he found that he was more interested in hard news and never looked back.
During his college career, Julian first attended Carroll College – now Carroll University – for his first two years, and when the school struggled with financial problems, he transferred to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, graduating with a B.A. in journalism. Following graduation, he started working for small weekly newspapers. When he grew tired of that, he worked as a freelancer for 2 1/2 years before being hired full time at Leader-Telegram, where he has been working since 1997.
As an editor, Julian reviews and proofs the work of reporters, lays out page spreads for the newspaper and makes sure the formatting looks acceptable, comes up with attention-grabbing previews of stories to go on the front page, and attends departmental meetings where all of the editors brainstorm. In these meetings, they decide which stories shall go on which pages in the next day’s paper. They have meetings every morning and afternoon, and at both they discuss the schedule for the following day. Often, by the afternoon meeting, stories have shifted and better ideas have been discovered. Julian told me that even when he has rough days at work, there are always enough interesting things happening to get him through.
Since I want to be a journalist, Julian was more than willing to share some advice about how to prepare for a career in the field. He told me to read and study news stories and structures to find out what works and what doesn’t. He also encouraged me to start writing, practicing and getting involved with newspapers like University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Spectator. He reminded me that I must immerse myself to find out if this is what I really want to do. Although Julian didn’t complete any internships while he was in college, he admitted that if he could go back in time, he would seek them out, and he encouraged me to search for them as well.
He said those who are best cut out for journalism are those who believe in the truth of everything, so it looks like I’m on the right track, after all.