For journalism students, working as a managing editor at the Sun Sentinel is an elusive dream. For Ruben Cueto, it is reality.
Mr. Cueto works at Forum Publishing Group, where he oversees Sun Sentinel’s community news section, which runs in the Sunday paper. Although Mr. Cueto has only been working with the main newspaper since 2004, he has been with Forum Publishing for 15 years.
“[Originally] I was hired as a reporter covering one of our Dade County newspapers. After a while, I was moved to our Miami Lakes newspaper…,” Mr. Cueto said. “I worked my way up as a reporter to assistant manager, to editor and then to managing editor.”
On Friday, Mr. Cueto spared his time to speak with Freelanship about his life as a managing editor
Mr. Cueto: A common mistake – especially for new writers – is…
…Not looking at things with a critical eye. They’ll often take what a source says at face value and let them be guided on what a story angle is. I like describing it as you should be an “expert” on every story you write, at least by the time you finish reporting on and writing it.
No question is too dumb or unimportant if you don’t know the answer. If something doesn’t make sense or square up, ask the source about it, don’t let them deviate or change the subject without answering what you want to understand…
This sounds like just news stories, but it’s all kinds. If you’re writing a feature on someone, and he only wants to focus on certain parts of his life, guide the conversation back to what you think might be more interesting, (They may very well be the same things, but still, it’s for you to decide through your news/story sense, not theirs, on the websites.
Mr. Cueto: As for pet peeves, there is a couple…
One is getting people’s names and/or titles wrong. We all make mistakes, but there’s usually no excuse for this. When it comes to public officials, not only can we ask for the correct information, but it’s so easily and quickly confirmed through Google, official websites, etc. When we quote “average” residents, we have to keep in mind that this will often be their only (or one of few) interactions with a journalist – you get their name wrong, we lose a lot of credibility with them.
The other is some reporters’ apparent need to dump their notebook into a story, basically including everyone they talked to and everything they found out. The reporter is the first editor on the story. He or she should cast as wide a net as possible in bringing in information, and then filter out stuff until you get what’s needed for a story.
This often happens with news stories, but also with features, too. One recent example was from a school event, where they celebrated the diversity of their student body. The youngsters each brought in a display of items to highlight their family’s culture. A big chunk of the story was dedicated to quoting and talking about six or seven of these kids. It’s great that the reporter was thorough and talked a lot of kids, but there’s no way this should be half the story, one graph after the other.
Obviously our job as editors is to work with the copy, but the way I look at it is that the reporter (and first-line editors, if you have more than one editor looking at a story) should submit the story the way they envision it being published.
Mr. Cueto: Journalism students, do not to be discouraged…
I would say not to be discouraged. I know there’s a lot of negative publicity when it comes to working in newspapers; and actually, I think qualifying us as newspapers is an outdated way of looking at it because we really are media companies. Whether it’s a print issue or online or whatever the future brings, I believe there is always going to be an appetite for news. What’s going to change… is which channel it comes to you by. I encourage [students] to not be discouraged. Always be open to learning – new ways of doing things, new ways of approaching stories and new ways of presenting things.
Mr. Cueto: Be open to learning new things…
Don’t ever assume that you have all the answers and that you can’t learn from other people… I’ve learned a lot from people over the years. Whether it’s different ways we should be designing our pages or ways to look at how you edit stories… Don’t be narrow minded. When you work with somebody who knows something that you don’t or frankly, a little more than you do, sponge off of them, learn from them. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn when you approach things a different way.