— Dragonfly Editorial (@DragonflyEdit) February 18, 2015
Teresa Schmedding transformed the American Copy Editors Society. Newspapers will miss her leadership, but ACES won’t, because ACES has adapted to the changing landscape better than newspapers have.
Teresa is leaving newspapers to become managing editor of Rotary International. Her move says something about journalism on two counts:
- Newspapers are losing too many valuable contributors.
- Editing skills remain valuable, even if newspapers no longer value them.
This week, I end my 25-year newspaper career to be ME of Rotary Int’l. My Daily Herald family and journ will always be a part of my soul.
— Teresa Schmedding (@tschmedding) May 2, 2016
I first met Teresa about a decade ago, when I was leading a seminar for news editors and copy desk chiefs at the American Press Institute. Someone recommended her to me to lead one of my sessions, and she did an outstanding job. I can’t remember the exact topic, but I think it dealt with copy editors’ role in the changing digital environment. What I remember was that she was an excellent teacher and struck the exact right tone for an editing workshop: upholding standards but not fussing over trivial points.
In the years since, our paths have crossed several more times. I think she attended an API Train the Trainer seminar as a participant, and I helped present a Newspaper Next seminar for her company in the Chicago suburbs, Paddock Publications, publisher of the Daily Herald and other newspapers. I’ve spoken three times at conferences of ACES, for which Teresa has been president for a few years. We’ve connected at other conferences as well, stayed in touch digitally, and become friends.
I’ve seen enough of her leadership to regard her as one of journalism’s best leaders. When I was writing a series of blog posts for new editors at Digital First Media, she was one of the people I invited to write a guest post. Her topic, adapting your leadership style to the challenges you face, is illustrated by her leadership of ACES.
ACES, formed nearly 20 years ago, started as an organization of newspaper copy editors. When I spoke at a conference in 2009, I was pleased and surprised to see it seemed to be thriving, despite some rounds of newspaper job cuts that seemed to hit copy desks the hardest.
Then in 2013, I attended an ACES conference again. Again, ACES had a good crowd and a bustling conference. I attributed it to the National Summit to Fight Plagiarism and Fabrication, an effort by multiple journalism organizations but largely led by Teresa and Craig Silverman. Good idea, I thought: Bring other journalists together at an ACES conference to supplement the dwindling ranks of copy editors.
Teresa asked me to do some training for the ACES board before the 2014 conference, and I finally caught on then how she had led the transformation of the organization. ACES is no longer a newspaper organization or even strictly a journalism organization. While newspapers have been shedding copy editors, corporate communication operations have been growing and recognize the importance of quality and the value copy editors bring. As Teresa noted in a Poynter post yesterday:
Research after research shows that the quality of your content has a direct impact on your credibility. The business world knows this: Copy editors in corporate communications are flourishing.
Newspaper copy editors are now just 25 percent of ACES members, and the organization is flourishing. The conference in Portland this month (which, alas, I had to miss) set an attendance record. Like Teresa, ACES has adjusted to changes in the business and moved on beyond copy editing.
Teresa doesn’t need to leave ACES leadership because she’s leaving newspapers. She’s already led the organization to the new territory she’s entering herself.
— Teresa Schmedding (@tschmedding) March 30, 2016
Teresa has mastered a wide range of digital skills and is deputy managing editor/digital operations at the Daily Herald. She led development of a News University course on digital analytics last year. (I am generously listed as an instructor because I agreed to give some feedback on the course materials, but the work fell during some bad times for my work and my treatment for lymphoma, and my contribution was minimal, if anything.)
Beyond her importance to journalism, I should express personal appreciation to Teresa. Because of my treatment, I had to turn down an invitation to speak at the ACES conference in Pittsburgh last year. Unknown to me, I had been chosen to receive the Glamann Award for my contributions to the craft, and the ACES leaders were planning to surprise me with the award there. Teresa and Mimi conspired to surprise me anyway with a Skype connection to the conference (minutes after I’d returned home from a hospital stay; I thought I was Skyping with our granddaughters). Teresa turned the laptop to show me my friends behind her gathered in Pittsburgh and explained what was up, while Mimi presented me with the plaque. I profoundly thanked ACES then, but I’ll add personal thanks now to Teresa for making that experience such a special highlight of a year that was often pretty miserable.
I haven’t had a chance yet to ask Teresa what her role at Rotary entails. I don’t know whether or how much it’s a public-relations role or whether or how much Rotary is one of the many organizations doing journalism now about topics that interest its members. But I know Rotary is getting a hell of an editor.
And I wish newspaper journalism could hang onto editors as good as Teresa Schmedding.
— ACES (@copyeditors) March 27, 2015
Other tributes to Teresa Schmedding
Anyone got a tourniquet? by Andy Lefkowitz
@tschmedding congrats on the new job – albeit bittersweet for daily news journalism, I’m a reader of your new publication!
— David Stoeffler (@DStoeffler) May 3, 2016
— Dragonfly Editorial (@DragonflyEdit) May 2, 2016
@tschmedding wow!! congrats!! that’s a big loss for Daily Herald, tho…
— sandra fish (@fishnette) May 2, 2016