Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Lifestyle, diverse skill-set key in jump from reporter to editor

By Khari Thompson
SJI Class of 2017

At the beginning of his career, Oklahoman Assistant Sports Editor Darnell Mayberry wanted to work in television. He figured the best way to achieve his goal was to secure a job as a reporter and leverage his NBA expertise for airtime on local stations.
The television calls eventually came for Mayberry, but shortly after, the call to raise a family came in as well. In the summer of 2015, Mayberry took a web editing position at the Oklahoman after spending 10 years there as an NBA beat writer. It was time for him to make the jump from reporter to editor.
“I had a young family so it was a family move for me,” Mayberry said. “My daughter was two years old at the time, and so the grind of an NBA beat, travel, practices, games, deadlines, everything you had to do every single day was not conducive to having a young family.”
Graham Watson-Ringo was looking for a similar lifestyle change six years ago when she left her freelance writing job at AOL’s and took an editing job at Yahoo in March 2011. She traded her hectic schedule as a beat writer for a more stable one as an editor.
“I found that I was so wrapped up in trying to be the best at my job as a beat writer that I never had any time to be social and go out and meet people and have relationships and stuff like that with people who weren’t sportswriters,” Watson-Ringo, now an executive producer at the San Antonio Express-News, said.
The switch from reporter to editor gives journalists the ability to work on a set schedule instead of having to be on call to chase breaking news at all times.
In general, editors spend more time at the office. Mayberry estimates that he spends 60 hours a week in the office now instead of around 25 when he was writing. But his hours are mostly shift-based, instead of action-based which makes it easier to plan life outside of the newsroom.
There are also advantages to having experience as both a reporter and an editor. Mayberry said that seeing things from an editor’s point of view can help improve writing and reporting skills because the reporter can gain a deeper sense of what the editor would want in a given situation.
“I sort of kick myself knowing some things now that I didn’t know back then that would’ve made my job easier and made my bosses’ jobs easier and would’ve made me stand out more as a reporter,” he said.
The inverse of that statement can also be true. Experience as a reporter can make an editor stand out more because they know what it takes to produce a quality story and can give reporters the guidance they need to make their stories better.
“Everybody should be a reporter for a while,” said Watson-Ringo. “I don’t think you can be a good editor unless you know what it takes to produce a good story and what it’s like to chase down subjects and sources and really mine for data.”