Skeptical Editing

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  • 1. The Skeptical Editor Michael Roberts, The Arizona Republic
  • 2. The essence of journalism is a discipline of verification. In the end, the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other forms of communication — from entertainment, propaganda, fiction or art. … Journalism alone is focused first on getting it right. -- Project for Excellence in Journalism, Pew Research Center
  • 3. Role of an editor Macro editing Micro editing
  • 4. Role of an editor Macro editing Micro editing
  • 5. Macro editing News value Focus Timeliness Structure Audience Format Play Tone Magnitude Meaning
  • 6. Micro editing Accuracy Wordcraft Grammar Syntax Style Clarity Taste Pace Voice Tone
  • 7. Role of an editor In all that an editor does, he or she must make decisions about what to change and what to leave alone. -- Buck Ryan, Michael O’Donnell The Editor’s Toolbox
  • 8. Role of an editor …decisions about what to change and what to leave alone Hold Seek fix, clarification Change it Let it go
  • 9. Macro editing
  • 10. …decisions about what to change and what to leave alone Macro choices Micro choices News value Focus Accuracy Wordcraft Timeliness Structure Grammar Syntax Audience Format Style Clarity Play Tone Taste Pace Magnitude Meaning Voice Tone
  • 11. Clear writing hinges on clear words and sentences. But you should not wait until you are at the keyboard to begin thinking about clarity. Clarity is cumulative. You should build it into your overall philosophy and approach, from the assignment stage through reporting and focusing. The precision of your sentences will be directly proportional to the clarity of thinking in your ideas, reporting and story planning. -- Carl Sessions Stepp Magic & Craft of Media Writing
  • 12. Five Stages of a Story The precision of your sentences will be directly proportional to the clarity of thinking in your ideas, reporting and story planning. Idea Report Organize Draft Revise Macro editing Micro editing
  • 13. ALEX bus routes
  • 14. ALEX bus routes News value Focus Timeliness Structure Audience Format Play Tone Magnitude Meaning
  • 15. Prosecute the story 1. Brainstorm facts of the case 2. Identify “theory of the case” 3. Build case around theory
  • 16. Prosecute the story • Brainstorm / discuss basic storyline; be specific as possible • Test “theory” or premise against facts • Identify facts that support the case • Identify facts “beyond change” that may not support case; account for them
  • 17. Case review 1. Brainstorm facts of the case 2. Identify “theory of the case” 3. Build case around theory
  • 18. Micro editing
  • 19. …decisions about what to change and what to leave alone Macro choices Micro choices News value Focus Accuracy Wordcraft Timeliness Structure Grammar Syntax Audience Format Style Clarity Play Tone Taste Pace Magnitude Meaning Voice Tone
  • 20. Libel Accuracy Fairness Taste Spelling / grammar Localisms Typographical errors Style preferences
  • 21. Mistakes are painful
  • 22. Exercise: Micro editing Accuracy: _______________ Grammar: _______________ Style: ___________________ Taste: ___________________
  • 23. Accuracy, libel, taste & fairness SLOW DOWN! Topics Elements crimes names deaths addresses lawsuits details tragedies language firings attribution accusations balance
  • 24. Examples
  • 25. The mistrial sends murderer Bud Adams back to jail to await a new trial, which may not be possible before Judge Jennifer Knox retires from the bench. Rupert Jones declared bankruptcy in May. Jones Custom Homes was sold the following month and renamed Star Homes. Creditors have filed suit. The bond was rejected on margin of 61 percent to 39 percent. Acme Dating Service lied to customers when full background profiles were not posted on the web site with the photos, limiting information to education and city.
  • 26. Skeptical systems
  • 27. The old process (of accuracy) is being stripped away almost beyond recognition. It wasn’t designed to shrink to this level. As a result, a new process is required -- rather than a requirement to use a spellchecker. If they plan to have fewer people reviewing stories, then every person who touches an article or headline or cutline has to be trained to take on new functions and responsibilities. Yes, there is a crisis of a lack of skilled people in newsrooms. But it’s also a crisis of training and process in the sense that we don’t look to these areas when people get shown the door. If you’re going to upend the old editorial process, you need to create a new one. This is the year to reengineer the quality control process at newspapers and other media organizations. -- Craig Silverman, “Quality Control” (Jan. 8, 2010), Columbia Journalism Review
  • 28. Sample CQ policy  All content must be CQ’d before publication.  Everyone who creates / changes content must check and CQ. (Reporter, content editor, copy editor, artist, designer, photographer, producer, platform manager, news assistant.)  Elements that require CQ: 1. Proper nouns. 2. Phone numbers and fax numbers. 3. Web addresses. 4. Times and dates of events. 5. Addresses, including street designation and city. 6. Math, prices, statistics and other numerical information.
  • 29. A system for editing 1. Prepare to edit 2. Read through 3. Address macro questions 4. Lock in lead, basic outline 5. Address micro questions 6. Read through
  • 30. Another system for editing Carl Session Stepp 1. Prepare to edit 2. Read through 3. Edit for content 4. Edit for structure 5. Read through
  • 31. Fixer vs. Coach The major cause of disagreements between writers and line editors is that revisions appear to be arbitrary and are not adequately explained. -- Daryl L. Frazell, George Tuck Principles of Editing
  • 32. The Good Editor • Make the simplest fix possible. • For close calls, let the writer’s words stand. • When in doubt, seek help by asking questions.
  • 33. Clarity Accuracy Simplicity Verification Brevity Description Structure Precision
  • 34. http://newstrainers.wordpress.com newstraining blog http://www.slideshare.net/michael.roberts