Copyediting Online: What’s the Same? What’s Different? Nora Paul Director, Institute for New Media Studies University of Minnesota firstname.lastname@example.org
…differences exist. • Some rules are different • Some AP and print style rules don’t work online. Sentences and paragraphs have to be kept a lot shorter. If the writers don’t do it, the copy editors have to step in. • There are some style variances from print to account for worldwide readership (we have to be sensitive to datelines, time zones, etc.) • Headlines have different rules online than in print • Style is different • Our standards for grammar, punctuation and syntax are generally the same but the process is not. We do believe in creating a different style and have been working on delineating what that should be. • Headlines have different rules online than in print
…differences exist • Process is different • Style is the same, but the editing process is not.. On the print side, a story gets written, looked at by a desk editor, then worked over in minute detail by a copy editor. Then it is checked by the managing copy editor, and gets final approval by the chief copy editor. Once laid out, it gets printed off and re-checked on hard copy by another copy editor for errors in headlines, breakers, etc. Online there is no formal copy editing staff whatsoever. In most cases an assignment / site editor will look at the story quickly either just before it is posted or, if it is a quick-breaking piece, immediately after it goes up online. But in some cases where nobody is available to check the copy, the person writing the story posts it directly once it is ready to go. If there is nobody available to look at it (due to chronic under-staffing), nobody in editorial buy the writer sees the story before it is posted.
…differences exist • Experience level is different • We use the same copyediting guidelines, but we aren’t nearly as familiar with them. • Volume is different • Since the online site has more copy and additional resources, there is more copy editing to do with online material
… • Yes • You bet it does! • Yes, and most of the copy editors are veteran newspaper copy editors. • Editors in the online department look at it for copyediting. • Everything on the site has to clear with the slot or the news service copy editors. • At the latimes.com and OJR, two places I’ve worked, we copyedited original content as rigourously as print copy. • We even do edits on our weblogs.
… • Sometimes • Special projects undergo a copy editing procedure but breaking news does not <several mentioned this about breaking news not getting copyediting attention> and material produced by non-news partners does not get copyedited. • We’ve got two part-time copyeditors, if they are available and someone remembers to ask them, then yes, it goes through formal copyediting. • Sometimes, though not always. There is no copy desk, per se, but the team is loaded with veteran news people, many of whom have been copy editors and serve in that capacity on demand. • Sort of • Our copy editing is not as extensive as on the print side – maybe one or two editors look at it before going live.
… • Not yet – but going to • Several people mentioned that they are planning to add copyedit / rewrite desks for the web for breaking news. • No • Not yet, I would like to add that to the mix, but it is currently read by an online producer before going onto the site. • We have no formal copy editing staff. Assignment editors also write some of their own copy, as well as assigning things to writers and freelancers, and they are responsible for all copy editing and story posting duties. Due to story volume and workload, there is usually not time available to copy-edit stories so they sometimes get posted by the person who wrote them
… • Interesting comment: We find that copy desk experience is among the most important in finding well-qualified online producers. We want the benefits of copy editing built-into a small operation that doesn’t allow a dedicated desk.
on… • Style issues • Sometimes cut them for length or rewrite to emphasize breaking news. • Headlines are edited and summary grafs are sometimes rewritten from the lead paragraph of print stories. • Typos / errors • I often notice things that need to be fixed and, obviously, correct them. • Time constraints • Breaking news goes right up without any online editing. • Additional material • We add “enhancements” like related web sties, stock numbers, etc. if we have time. • While the text was “shovelware” from the print side - we have to add promos – heads and decks – on index pages to link to top stories
Interesting comment • “Review” is more accurate than “edit”. Although our online producers have reporting, copy editing and assignment-editing experience, breaking news from the print newsroom should generally be changed/corrected by originating reporter/editor if an online review raises serious questions. At the same time, producers who sometimes need to write breaking news themselves must go through a review process by the best option available – a newsroom editor when available, or another experienced online producer.
Biggest copyediting issues for online… • Lack of time and staff • Scheduling: Most original copy is made during the day, but copy editors work at night. Trying to staff around the clock to match the continuous online news cycle is a challenge. • Deadline pressure is double print’s • Writing promos • Forgetting the adage: “Get it first, but first get it right.”
Biggest copyediting issue for online: Communication with print side editors • They don’t understand how online works • Getting them to flag final version for online • Changes made to print text but online is not told • Culture clash – online is urgent, copyeditors are methodical • Set in their workflow, not available to online • Getting print editors to give it to online now, not just when they get a chance
What the next generation needs to know… • How to work like a wire service • How to work online and in print • How to balance speed and accuracy • How online writing differs from print and broadcast • How to edit different Web presentation forms
Print…Online…Whatever… “If you’re good, you have a bright future ahead of you. The world will always need copy editors.”