Tyrannical Editor-in-Chief

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By Tom Schulte

Allow me to take you back to the early 2000s. Pedro Martinez was lighting it up for the Sox, George Bush was offering consistent material for Saturday Night Live skits and my nights were ruled by a red-inked pen. Whether it be a creative writing paper for a literature class or simply a paragraph of text below images glued to a poster board for Earth Science, you could be sure that it went through my Dad’s sadistic editing process.

The only computer in our home resided in the kitchen, adjacent to the living room where my father took up residence each evening after dinner. I would spend significant time writing, significant time editing, but in all honesty, the majority of my time was spent in a panic, hovering the cursor over the print button as I knew this was just step one in the process. As the printer spat out my first draft line-by-line, I could almost hear the smile grow across my Dad’s face as he began clicking the red-inked pen. It did not matter if he were in the middle of a conversation, deep in a game of Scrabble, or dozing off on the couch, when the paper was delivered, he would begin his work immediately.

Sometimes I’d watch to see every movement the pen made, guessing which section he was crossing out and scribbling on, and sometimes I’d need to leave the house entirely—either way, there were never just a few ‘quick edits’. Instead I would find entire sections crossed out, while question marks littered the pages, usually indicting non-cohesive thoughts. The next step was typically the ‘battle stage’ where I would challenge each and every edit in hopes of not having to make changes. My usual fallback (and explicit sign of defeat) was angrily yelling something along the lines of “well you just don’t understand the assignment!” But he always did.

Eventually I’d return to the kitchen-based computer and begin pounding away on the keys. More often than not, I would return the edited piece back to my Dad another two or three times—each time being slightly smoother, but in no way easy.

From a writing perspective, my four years in college were a cakewalk. Whether it was casual reflection pieces or technical analysis, I was able to write a couple quick drafts, go through a few rounds of edits and submit a paper I was proud of. There was a sense of liberation in writing and editing my own material without the review of a third party. However, this peace has since left as many of my projects at US Wealth Management require internal and external written communications. No longer is it my father with a red-inked pen, instead it is John P. Napolitano, CEO with his iPad, in which he is too well-versed with Microsoft Word’s editing features. Grammar, formatting, sentence structure, word-choice, but more than anything, comments challenging my thought process with a helpful hint on how a section can better-flow. Similarly to my school nights in Syracuse, drafts go between John and myself several more times until it is deemed suitable for distribution.

 “A mentor, a 'teacher,' is like an editor. I absolutely value my editor, who is my teacher.” -David Bergen