Editor: Jenny Llakmani Company: Rotary International Number of years in editing: 30 years
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
I majored in German, but was always drawn to journalism. I loved reading the newspaper, even as a kid. I was lucky Mike Royko wrote for the one we subscribed to. After college (and the fall of the Iron Curtain), I was in Eastern Europe teaching English when I met some people who were starting up an English-language newspaper called The Prague Post. I had no editing or writing experience, but I wanted to be part of it so badly that I took a job selling ads. That turned out to be very much not my forte, but it didn't matter because before long I was on the copy desk. I realized that editing was what I was born to do.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
I've been working for Rotary's member magazine for 15 years. I like being part of an organization that's doing good in the world. The work that Rotary members do inspires me every day, and the variety of people and projects we cover keeps the work fresh and interesting. I also love the international aspect of Rotary. I've been able to travel and even to use my knowledge of German and Czech in my work from time to time.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
We're a monthly magazine, so we have a basic rhythm, but there are always unexpected things that come up. On a typical day I'll go through my email, chat with my colleagues (in Teams for now, as we're still working from home), and then get to work on stories. I always have a few topics that I'm researching—at an organization like Rotary, there is a fair amount of vetting and information-gathering that we have to do in-house before we can hand a story over to a freelance writer. I always have a couple of stories to edit. And as managing editor, I read all our content before it goes to be factchecked and copy edited. As stories get laid out, there are pages to proofread, captions to write, and headlines to argue over. Our headline meetings are filled with bad puns and obscure literary and historical references—in other words, we have a blast. Every day is different, and I'm always very busy, but I'm never bored.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes from seeing a story that I've worked on that turned out great—whether it's a piece that required a major rewrite or one that needed almost no editing. Either way, I was part of it, and I feel proud of it. And I love my smart, funny, argumentative, supportive colleagues.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
The biggest challenge at a big nonprofit is getting everyone working together. There are so many teams and everyone is doing their own thing. Being able to communicate honestly and openly with coworkers and managers is key.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished working on a fantastic package of stories by Charles Fishman that focuses on hidden water and sanitation issues in the United States. We started talking about it a year ago, and I love how it turned out. Right now, among other things, I'm working on our annual "What It's Like" package of first-person stories.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Read. Read well-edited newspapers, magazines, fiction, and nonfiction. You have to have a well-developed ear for language to be a really good editor, and the best way to get that is to absorb it. It's not only about rules.