About Editing

The Only Friend an Editor Needs

By Jack Limpert

Danny’s face has turned white from old age but every morning he’s still ready to go. We walk a block down the street to a big park. We go behind the tennis courts and kids’ play area to an open field that has a baseball diamond and enough space for football and soccer. Danny barks at the planes heading west after taking off from Reagan National and I look at the birds and sometimes study the cloud formations. Then on the way home we walk through the woods—in the old days he chased squirrels. I sometimes find wildflowers and bring a few home. After the walk, I always was ready for a good day as an editor.

Danny is 14 now, old for a golden retriever. The dog year calculator says for a large dog he’s the equivalent of 88 but for a medium-sized dog he’s 78—my age. Since he now moves about as fast as I do, 78 seems about right.

The first thing he taught me was appreciating the simple joys of going for a walk. He starts the day with enthusiasm and what seems like a smile. It’s a great day to be alive.

Then there’s the reminder that discipline is important. Danny learned to come when called and to sit still when asked. A little training can avoid trouble and possible contact with lawyers. And Danny is quick to remind me that on cold or rainy mornings, there’s stuff to be done whether or not you want to do it.

Approaching things with a positive attitude is important. The kids in the neighborhood like Danny because he’s always friendly but doesn’t overdo it. Maybe Bobby down the street has been yelled at by his dad but Danny still thinks he’s a great kid.

Planning and preparation are important. If you’re going to walk a dog in all kinds of weather, spend the money for really comfortable, waterproof shoes. Sometimes you need an umbrella. Anticipate problems, try to avoid surprises.

Since Danny’s a calm dog—labs and goldens are the best at not being yappy—it’s easy for me to walk along with him and daydream and let my mind wander. Some of the best story ideas popped up on those morning walks when I wasn’t trying to think about work.

Some days he’s helped me to meet interesting people.  In my experience you almost never say hello to a fellow dog owner and say something nice about his or her dog without a little friendly conversation. And those conversations with real people have turned into lots of  good story ideas. It’s really helpful for an editor to talk with people who aren’t journalists.

Finally, everyone needs some affection. Because I got plenty of it at  home, I didn’t need it at work.

The point of all this dog talk: When doing their jobs, editors shouldn’t have any friends. You’re not there to please anyone but the reader. If you want some love, don’t look for it from fellow journalists.

As President Harry Truman once said, “If you want a friend in this town, get a dog.” Good advice for editors, too.

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