Working History: Nelle Oosterom
Name: Nelle Oosterom
Title: Associate Editor
Employer: Canada's History
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Years in the field: 33 (3 with Canada's History)
What are the regular tasks for your job?
As an editor, I spend most of my time at my desk, where I perform a variety of tasks related to producing the magazine, as well as online content for the Canada’s History website. This involves working closely with others on the Canada’s History team, as well as working with the writers who contribute to our magazine. I research material to be used in the magazine and online, I compile information, I write articles and reviews, I do interviews for podcast, and of course I do the grunt work of editing copy to make it as readable, accurate and interesting as possible for our readers.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part is when all of the elements of a magazine feature that we have been working on for some time come together on the page in a way that makes me believe that people are going to want to read it right away – or at least pause for a while to take in the attractive layout and resolve to read it later. When the whole magazine comes together that way, it’s especially satisfying.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes technical hang-ups can eat up a lot of time as things either don’t work the way they are supposed to, or it simply takes time to learn something new. For instance, I have yet to master producing a quality podcast that wasn’t overly time-consuming. It’s not just about throwing a raw interview on the web – you have to do a proper edit if you want to engage a listener.
How did you get interested in history?
I’ve always been interested in history and like many people my interest grew as I grew older and began realizing that I had lived and witnessed recent history.
For instance, I have spent most of my career as a journalist, much of it working for The Canadian Press news service, where much of what I did was about recording – whether out in the field or on the editing desk – major national events. This is known as writing “the rough draft of history.”
What advice would you give to students who are interested in a similar job?
This job is about communicating history to people in an engaging way. So it’s not just about knowing history but about presenting it in a way that is going to inform, enlighten and entertain people. Thus, it’s a good idea to get some journalism training, master the basics of good story telling, then learn as much as possible about how to present engaging history stories in different media – print, online, broadcast, etc.