Boothe's 4202 Blog

How the Internet and Technology is changing Editing

Failure to communicate

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Case Study 3:

When a young journalist first gets a story published or finally sees his or her name in print, it is a great feeling. There’s a sense of accomplishment after writing something worthwhile enough to be printed 35,000 times.

But other times, the reaction to seeing a byline can leave a pit down in a person’s stomach. The name below the headline is correct but the words in the story are clearly from another individual.

I’m a big proponent of curbing overly aggressive copy-editing, especially when it comes to ledes and even structure. While I understand that not all articles that flow through a copy desk are prize winners and some need extensive help, if the story’s tone can or must be changed in the process than it should not make it into the paper.

The reporter should either go back to the drawing board for a quick fix or be forced to hold it for another day. He or she should never be surprised in the morning to look down and see an altogether unfamiliar story.

After I started at the Alligator, I had this happen to me on several occasions and could never figure out why I couldn’t get a phone call that night or even an email explain the changes or what I did wrong. The best defense I found was to just volunteer to be in the office as much as possible to I could see and hear the editing process happening to my story and defend it if need be.

A great example of how a lack of communication in copy editing can backfire occurred in a Gainesville Sun article about a Lil’ Wayne concert a couple years ago. In it the copy editor or editor were thrown off by the sex of one of the article’s sources and clearly didn’t communicate with the writer.

Some newspapers like The Charlotte, N.C., Observer seem to give their copy editors a lot of freedom to make a fact change without telling a higher level editor unless the problem persists over several stories. Others like The Oklahoman have a much more stringent policy on notifying line editors of every fact error that was corrected.  Everything in a paper needs to be double-checked, even a copy editor’s changes.


Written by jboothe

February 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Like how you draw on your own experience
    Needs a better headline – think SEO please
    lede = try to avoid these kind of journalistic spellings in posts
    if the story’s tone can or must be changed in the process than it should not make it into the paper. THEN

    Ronald R. Rodgers

    February 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm

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