Friday, July 28, 2023

Insight: Think it’s easy being an editor?

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

For many years in my journalism career, I preferred being a news reporter or a sportswriter to serving as an editor and having to edit someone else’s articles.

Yet back in 1982 while serving in the U.S Air Force, someone in a position of leadership decided it was my turn to experience reading articles turned in by staff members and then trying to make them clear, concise, and understandable for newspaper readers. Along with that task, I had to compile a weekly list of stories appearing in the paper, prioritize their importance for placement on the pages of that week’s edition, write the headlines and photo captions, and then review assignments with reporters for the following week.

It was quite a challenge to serve as the editor of the base newspaper and I was happy to take on the responsibility until several weeks into the new role, I was working with a woman who I had assigned to cover the base’s new women’s softball team.

It’s more than 40 years later, but I can still recall the introductory paragraph to her story and to this day it still makes me chuckle. This reporter had previously only covered news stories and she told me that she knew very little about sports. I assured her that the article would just be about the formation of the new team, its practice schedule, and to focus on the team members, what squadron they were from, and who the coaches were.

She went out early on a Saturday morning and interviewed team members and then turned in her article on Monday for my review.

The opening to her story went like this: “Every Saturday morning a group of girls gather behind the base gym to throw balls at and tantalize each other.”

Somehow after reading that, I knew my career would never be quite the same. But I adapted and became adept at rewriting articles that needed help and leveraged my experience and resourcefulness when I returned to college, earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and started working for a commercial weekly newspaper and then a daily newspaper as a reporter and sportswriter and a copy editor.

In 2009 while working for a daily newspaper in Florida, I was promoted to a department editor role that included overseeing the content creation and production of seven weekly newspapers. My team included several friends I had worked with previously as a copy editor and I was happy to have them working for me.

This new promotion meant I had to proofread their pages, assign articles to them for their editions and approve their output for publication.

One copy editor I had worked extensively with in the sports department was working on an upcoming edition and along with designing the newspaper pages, he had to write the headlines that appeared with the articles in that edition. The top story on Page 1 of that week’s edition was about a women’s church group that had knitted mittens, scarves, hats, and shawl wraps for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy at the hospital.

As we approached deadline, I received the page proofs from the copy editor and began a review but was stopped cold by a large headline at the top of Page 1 of this edition. In large type, his headline for the article was “Thou shawl cover the ill.”

Sorry to say, but that one was sent back for a headline rewrite.

Through the years, I’ve tried my best to keep ridiculous errors from happening in the printed edition, but I’ve learned that no matter how hard you try, typos and mistakes will happen.

Once while working for a weekly paper in New Mexico as a news reporter, I had to cover a short city council meeting, type up the story, and hand it to the copy editor who was finishing up the edition that was supposed to come out the very next morning.

The meeting itself only lasted about 15 minutes and had been quickly arranged so that city councilors could transfer funds from one city account to another to pay for bridge repair expenses performed by a local contractor.

I walked to city hall, covered the meeting, walked back to the newspaper office, and typed up my article. Before handing it over to the copy editor for placement as the top story on the front page, I checked my facts, verified the correct spellings of the city councilors’ names, and wrote the headline. The copy editor then selected the correct font and style and put it on the page before typing the headline.

My headline read as follows: “Council shifts cash in special session.”

As my work was complete for the day, I left and went home, only to be stunned the next morning when outside the door to the newspaper office, I caught a glimpse of the edition in the window of the newspaper box there.

In large letters across the top of the front page it had my headline, except the copy editor had mistyped it, omitting the “f” in shifts.

The newspaper editor then required that all stories and headlines undergo proofreading before publication. <

No comments:

Post a Comment