Monday, December 18, 2006

Kenji Fujishima, Copy Editor?

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - I'm not sure if I spilled this on my blog or not, but towards the end of October I decided to try my luck at applying for the fairly prestigious Dow Jones Newspaper Fund copy editing internship. After having taken Editing & Layout class for a few weeks, I figured that it was not only something that I could do well enough, but also something that might help me out financially if I'm good enough to become a copy editor at some newspaper somewhere while I do film-related writing on the side. Besides, at that point in the semester, I hadn't really applied to any other possible internships yet, although I had flirted with sending in an application package to Entertainment Weekly for a possible internship there. So I figured, what the heck? Not only did I have to put together an application package for the DJNF---unofficial transcript, brief essay, resume, etc.---but I also had to take a controlled editing exam testing not only my knowledge of grammar and AP style, but also of geography and current events.

I thought I did well enough on the exam, but otherwise I kept my expectations low: this is a pretty competitive internship, after all, and my previous experiences at job-seeking---losing a job after one day, for instance, and striking out at many others---didn't exactly infuse me with optimism. (I guess it's a defense mechanism I have: if my expectations are low to start with, it makes the surprise of landing a job or an internship that much sweeter.)

So last week, on Thursday, I'm in the Macs section of the College Ave. computer lab working on my Editing & Layout front page design project when, at around 1:15 p.m., I get a message on my cell phone from a man who identifies himself as someone from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund---a professor from Temple University (I won't name him here) who says he might have something for me. I call him back a couple minutes after receiving the message; turns out he's offering me a copy editing internship at one of the biggest of newspapers, the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal!

The professor basically needed an answer from me now, and, in the few seconds before I gave my answer, I flashed back briefly to my projected Entertainment Weekly application that hadn't gotten off the ground yet. Entertainment---this was what I eventually wanted to devote my life to, and it'd be terrific if I could get my foot in the door by interning at one of the most popular of entertainment magazines. And yet, here was one of the most prestigious newspapers in America offering me an internship for next summer, and quite a bit of money too ($700/week, the professor told me over the phone). Take my chances with Entertainment Weekly, or take this sure bet and try to do best at it?

In the end, I decided to take the sure bet. When I said "I'll do it," the professor said, "Kenji...your life just changed."

I sure hope so.


So it looks very much like I'm going to be interning at the Wall Street Journal next summer as a copy editing intern. In mid-May, I'm going off to Temple University for an all-expenses-paid, two-week training session before I begin my 1o-week internship. And it looks like I'm going to be making a handsome amount of money doing it, too.

How do I feel about this? Well shit, I'm just glad that I have something lined up for the summer. Coming into the semester, I pretty much had no idea about what kind of internships I'd apply for apart from the fact that I had to try to apply to one. The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund thing was basically something that I decided to try just for the heck of it. Sometimes great opportunities come in the most unexpected packages? (Yeah, that's not a popular saying; I just made that one up.) I guess I'm also happy that I was able to get this one on my own: I got this all by myself, I accomplished this. Pretty satisfying feeling, I say.

Of course, copy editing doesn't really have a whole lot to do with film or entertainment, you might say. No, it doesn't. Neither did accounting, which is the major my mother had preferred I pursue in college instead of journalism and cinema studies. Is history repeating itself?

But my mother has always been right about one thing: even if you do make it to a fairly high position in journalism, it may still be difficult to live on a reporter's salary. Maybe copy editing is just the thing I need: the kind of higher-paying job I need to try to support my film-writing career, whenever that comes. And it's something that I could conceivably find myself enjoying doing; accounting was never something I could picture myself doing while enjoying. Editing articles, laying out a page: this is not only creative stuff, but important too. The journalism world always needs good copy editors; maybe I could become one, especially with a Wall Street Journal internship on my resume. And this could perhaps financially pave the way for future success as the entertainment writer that I ideally would like to be. Or who knows? Maybe I'll end up doing copy editing all my life and relegate film stuff to the side. Life is full of possibilities---a cliche, but I'd like to think it's true.

All in all, I'm pretty happy about this. Readers, do you think I made the right call, considering my entertainment-related aspirations?


Anonymous said...

Kenji, You did the RIGHT thing; you sure did and this is such a great break you got! The Wall Street Journal vs Entertainment Weekly? That's a no brainer. The prestige of the Wall Street Journal will open doors for you that you never even imagined existed. CONGRATULATIONS! You are on your way to bigger and better things!!!!

Anonymous said...

Funny - I was searching for 'reporter's salary' on Blogger since I'm thinking of taking a reporting job, even though it pays about 2/3 less than what I'm getting now.

Anyway - I'm a former Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern. I too wanted a reporting job. But the experience was absolutely amazing. You'll be amazed at how being a copy editor will improve your writing. Congrats!

Kenji Fujishima said...


Thanks. (You too, anonymous.) Hey, just wondering: do you have any advice to give to a DJNF intern if they want to do well at his/her internship? A fairly broad question, I know, but I was just curious if you had any words of wisdom for someone in my position.