Ask the recruiter
I just discovered that Joe Grimm, recruiter at the Detroit Free Press, has a blog. He answers one job question a day, from what I can tell, and many of them have dealt with editing:
From court reporter to editing?
Editing is one of the few areas in journalism where a test can indicate whether a person has applicable skills. In fact, taking a test can be very similar to editing copy on deadline. I would push for the test and for an interview. Every piece of paper you submit, from résumé to cover letter to critique (if requested) will be seen as a sample of your work and must be, of course, perfect.Where can copy editing lead?
The trick is to get the newspaper to see you as more than “just a copy editor.” Do this by showing some initiative to improve things outside your immediate job. Serve on task forces and committees (At a lot of papers, this will mean coming in before the copy desk shift starts.) Look for opportunities to be the lead copy editor on the newspaper’s most ambitious projects. Try to get involved early in them. Work into a leadership role on the desk, such as slotting.Getting started as a copy editor?
You'll need a perfect cover letter and resume that follow AP style -- the standards are higher here than they will be for other journalists -- and examples of your best headlines.That's just a start. This is an invaluable resource for people with journalism-job questions. And the search function is super-handy.
A letter or two of recommendation, written by people who have seen your editing, may help more than before-and-after versions of articles you've edited. Few editors will take the time to make side-by-side comparisons.
Two strategies could put you into a job: ask for a tryout and ask to take the copy editing test, if the paper has one.