Senior Column | Lessons on life and AP style

My year at The Daily Iowan was 75 percent AP style and 25 percent personal growth.


Gretchen Lenth, Copy Editor

I didn’t want to write this column at first. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I didn’t feel qualified. After all, I come from an awkward position where I quit working for The Daily Iowan freshman year, only to crawl back three years later.

So, let’s talk about that.

Balancing academics, a job, and a social life is tricky in college. My freshman year, I struggled to succeed at any of the three. As a small-town girl with negligible social skills, Iowa City and the University of Iowa swallowed me up. I quit working as a news reporter for the sake of my mental health, which was at the same time a wise decision and one I came to regret.

I soon found other activities to fill the void, but I couldn’t shake away thoughts of what I could have accomplished had I persevered. After all, the DI is what drew me to the UI’s campus. A copy editor position that opened my senior year provided an opportunity to try again.

Copy editing isn’t something I plan to make a career out of — I’m a data journalist by trade. But I like to see the two as skills that flex the same muscles in my brain. It can sometimes feel like a math equation, reworking a clunky sentence by fixing AP style mistakes and strengthening word choice to help a reporter’s story come through. It’s been a privilege to play this role in making news happen.

I’ve learned more about grammar over the last year than I may ever need to know. But I’ve also learned a valuable lesson on how to chase the things that are important to me. Both skills helped me immensely.

In a few weeks, I’ll be packing my bags for an internship with The Wall Street Journal’s data team in New York. Reflecting on my time at the university, I can’t say I regret too many of the decisions that led me here, but I may have been left with one regret if I didn’t give the DI another chance.

Before I’m gone for good, I have a few acknowledgements I want to make.

First, thank you to Sabine Martin for dragging me back to the DI because she thought I had a good eye for detail. I’ve always taken that to mean I’m fussy and nit-picky, but that’s also true. I also want to thank her for letting me borrow her blue light glasses on print nights. My eyeballs wouldn’t have survived the academic year without them.

I want to shout out our design editor, Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, for being someone I can geek out with about numbers and data visualizations. My secret Santa, Jerod Ringwald, also deserves a special mention for consistently “forgetting” my gift before buying me subpar Chipotle three weeks later. I wanted this in writing so he can never live it down.

Finally, I want to thank everyone on staff for welcoming me back. I’ll admit I was hesitant to re-enter the newsroom, but I quickly learned I had nothing to worry about. Except everyone’s misuse of commas, of course.

To all the underclassmen returning to the newsroom next year: Keep going, and don’t forget to keep the AP Stylebook webpage pinned to your web browser.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.