Eyes of a newspaper

                                                    By Chau Mai, Emerson College

He likes reporters who value collaboration and who appreciate having their asset saved on deadline. He dislikes reporters who view editors as unnecessary, as a nuisance interfering with their art.

His name is Roy Greene, assignment metro editor at The Boston Globe where he oversees reporters covering K-12 education, Boston City Hall and edit Boston’s Your Town hyper-local sites on boston.com.

With more than 20 years of working with reporters, Roy expects them to understand that journalism is a team process, and to have an ability to answer questions professionally and patiently.

“Like a good teacher, editors can help show reporters what’s important and coach them to produce their best work,” Greene said in an email interview.

He said the relationship between editors and reporters should be based on mutual respect and professionalism. To foster that, reporters and editors should see one another as human beings, and their employers should provide opportunities for them to get to know one another away from the newsroom.

When asked if he was afraid of being “hated” by reporters, Greene said: “No, I’ve been at this long enough and have earned the respect of pretty much all of the reporters who have ever worked for me.”

He said the process takes time, patience, listening and a thoughtful approach to the craft, “but all of those things have paid off.”

Growing up in eastern North Carolina, Greene chose to pursue journalism because he loves writing and storytelling. “Newspapers seem like the most interesting way to tell stories,” he said.

Greene started his career as a copyeditor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C, in 1987, one year after earning a Bachelor’s degree in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He worked there for a decade. During the time, he went to Phnom Penh and worked for The Cambodia Daily as an editor for one year. That overseas journalism experience, Greene said, helped him to get his job, also a copyeditor, at The Globe in 1997.

An interview with Roy Greene, a Boston Globe Metro Editor, published on Sep 12, 2011 by

Greene says he’s never been bored with his job. He said the most interesting part is the variety of topics every day. “Also, it’s very gratifying to come up with an idea and see it through all the way to publication.”

Until now, he cannot forget the intensity of working on the Sept. 11, 2001 coverage, during the day of the attack and in the coverage of the aftermath.

In the mind of this senior editor, a newspaper needs editors as the final eyes on a story. To him, the editor’s most important characteristic is good judgment of what’s important and what’s not important.

However, Greene said it is mentally difficult to remain sharp while editing story after story. The worst part of his job is allowing an embarrassing error into the paper or onto the web that has to be corrected.

“I once typed into a story that the capital of Iraq was Kabul (in reality, the Afghan capital,)” he recalled.

Besides having good judgment, Greene thinks an editor should have a wide range of knowledge of different topics, natural skepticism, and a calm and even-keeled demeanor on deadline, a comfort with working behind the scenes, and a sense of humor.

A good day, for the Globe’s assignment editor, is “when I find a story that I know would fascinate the people.” Greene said he became an editor because he wanted to have a say on the big-picture decisions that help shape the newspaper.

Greene offered advice to aspiring copyeditors: “Shadow a copyeditor for a shift at a newspaper and see what the work is like. Also, read everything you can get your hands on.”


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