Adventures in Editing with National Geographic’s David Brindley

Even the editors at National Geographic magazine make copy-editing mistakes.

David Brindley, managing editor for National Geographic, speaks to students and faculty Oct. 21 about effective copy editing in the Recital Hall in the School of Music building.
David Brindley, managing editor for National Geographic, speaks to students and faculty Oct. 21 about effective copy editing in the Recital Hall in the School of Music building.

David Brindley, managing editor for National Geographic, spoke with students and faculty Wednesday evening about the importance of thinking critically when it comes to copy editing.

“It’s just thinking through things,” Brindley said. “Just thinking and being critical and having that critical eye of what you’re reading.”

Brindley talked about the importance of fact checking and suggested having solid online sources, contacting people via phone calls and consulting outside experts to ensure the accuracy of one’s content.

Brindley cautioned against red-flag sources such as Wikipedia, outdated information and biased opinion, as well as avoiding anything you “think” you know.

“You think that you know it, but it’s just better to double check it,” Brindley said.

In response to a question from the audience, Brindley said one of the biggest hurdles National Geographic has overcome is “the print dollar to digital pennies.”

“We’ve probably trimmed our staff by 40 percent,” Brindley said.

For English junior Elli Burns, these numbers are concerning as someone who is pursuing copy-editing as a career.

“Because that is such a difficult field to get into, you need to network like crazy,” Burns said. “You need to just have connections everywhere and work your butt off.”

Although the need for copy editors is downsizing due to the cut in print publications, according to Burns, she and copy editors alike were opened up to a new world of opportunities after hearing from Brindley.

Claire Parris, journalism junior, said what she took from Brindley’s presentation is that one can become an editor no matter what one is studying.

“It kind of, like – I don’t know – gave me a ray of hope because I don’t really know how I’m going to get there,” Parris said. “I don’t know how to go about it.”

Brindley received his bachelor’s degree at University of California, Berkeley and then received a master’s in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“I never studied journalism,” Brindley said.

Burns said Brindley’s talk opened up a new world of opportunities that she can look into.

“He made it seem so casual – he didn’t have to go chasing after [the position] like it was this huge deal,” Parris said. “I suppose it’s sort of like one of those stories you imagine happening to you.”

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