The Skeptical Editor




Michael Roberts, The Arizona Republic
The essence of journalism is a discipline of
verification. In the end, the discipline of
verification is what separates jo...
Role of an editor


Macro editing




Micro editing
Role of an editor


Macro editing




Micro editing
Macro editing

News value        Focus
Timeliness        Structure
Audience          Format
Play              Tone
Magnitu...
Micro editing

Accuracy           Wordcraft
Grammar            Syntax
Style              Clarity
Taste              Pace
V...
Role of an editor



In all that an editor does, he or she must make
decisions about what to change and what to
leave alon...
Role of an editor

…decisions about what to change and what
to leave alone
                                            Hol...
Macro editing
…decisions about what to change and
 what to leave alone

Macro choices            Micro choices
News value   Focus       ...
Clear writing hinges on clear words and
sentences. But you should not wait until you are
at the keyboard to begin thinking...
Five Stages of a Story

The precision of your sentences will be directly
proportional to the clarity of thinking in your i...
ALEX bus routes
ALEX bus routes

News value                     Focus
Timeliness                     Structure
 Audience                  ...
Prosecute the story


1. Brainstorm facts of the case
2. Identify “theory of the case”
3. Build case around theory
Prosecute the story

• Brainstorm / discuss basic
storyline; be specific as possible

• Test “theory” or premise against
f...
Case review

1. Brainstorm facts of the case
2. Identify “theory of the case”
3. Build case around theory
Micro editing
…decisions about what to change and
 what to leave alone

Macro choices            Micro choices
News value   Focus       ...
Libel
 Accuracy
   Fairness
      Taste
Spelling / grammar
     Localisms

Typographical errors

 Style preferences
Mistakes are painful
Exercise: Micro editing


Accuracy: _______________

Grammar: _______________

Style: ___________________

Taste: ________...
Accuracy, libel, taste & fairness

                 SLOW DOWN!

     Topics                   Elements
      crimes       ...
Examples
The mistrial sends murderer Bud Adams back to jail to
await a new trial, which may not be possible before
Judge Jennifer K...
Skeptical systems
The old process (of accuracy) is being stripped away almost
beyond recognition. It wasn’t designed to shrink to this level...
Sample CQ policy
 All content must be CQ’d before publication.
 Everyone who creates / changes content must check and
CQ...
A system for editing

        1. Prepare to edit
        2. Read through
        3. Address macro questions
        4. Loc...
Another system for editing

             Carl Session Stepp
             1. Prepare to edit
             2. Read through
 ...
Fixer vs. Coach


The major cause of disagreements between
writers and line editors is that revisions appear to
be arbitra...
The Good Editor


• Make the simplest fix possible.


• For close calls, let the writer’s
words stand.

• When in doubt, s...
Clarity
Accuracy
                     Simplicity
    Verification                     Brevity

 Description
              ...
http://newstrainers.wordpress.com


                           newstraining blog




       http://www.slideshare.net/mich...
Skeptical Editing
Skeptical Editing
Skeptical Editing
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Skeptical Editing

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Skeptical Editing

  1. 1. The Skeptical Editor Michael Roberts, The Arizona Republic
  2. 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. 3. Role of an editor Macro editing Micro editing
  4. 4. Role of an editor Macro editing Micro editing
  5. 5. Macro editing News value Focus Timeliness Structure Audience Format Play Tone Magnitude Meaning
  6. 6. Micro editing Accuracy Wordcraft Grammar Syntax Style Clarity Taste Pace Voice Tone
  7. 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. 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. 9. Macro editing
  10. 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. 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. 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. 13. ALEX bus routes
  14. 14. ALEX bus routes News value Focus Timeliness Structure Audience Format Play Tone Magnitude Meaning
  15. 15. Prosecute the story 1. Brainstorm facts of the case 2. Identify “theory of the case” 3. Build case around theory
  16. 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. 17. Case review 1. Brainstorm facts of the case 2. Identify “theory of the case” 3. Build case around theory
  18. 18. Micro editing
  19. 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. 20. Libel Accuracy Fairness Taste Spelling / grammar Localisms Typographical errors Style preferences
  21. 21. Mistakes are painful
  22. 22. Exercise: Micro editing Accuracy: _______________ Grammar: _______________ Style: ___________________ Taste: ___________________
  23. 23. Accuracy, libel, taste & fairness SLOW DOWN! Topics Elements crimes names deaths addresses lawsuits details tragedies language firings attribution accusations balance
  24. 24. Examples
  25. 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. 26. Skeptical systems
  27. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 33. Clarity Accuracy Simplicity Verification Brevity Description Structure Precision
  34. 34. http://newstrainers.wordpress.com newstraining blog http://www.slideshare.net/michael.roberts

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