Editing with a critical eye

1 Feb

People often see copy editors as grammar and spelling checkers. They are just a step above the little button on a word processor. They are the machines that find the errors writers miss. However, the key to a good and thoroughly edited story is a copy editor that goes beyond that function and really tests the story. When copy editors look into the facts they are reading, they can prevent a story from humiliating the paper. That is why journalism classes and newspapers alike need to stress the fact-checking aspect of copy editing.

As noted in an article on Copydesk.org , copy editing can prevent a paper from reporting appearances of people long dead and prevent faulty math from ruining the credibility of a story. The article stresses the importance of skepticism for copy editors. It is crucial for editors to question everything that appears on their desks.  In an article on the blog The Art and Craft of Intelligent Editing  it is suggested that editors prosecute their big stories. The goal is for an editor to find all of the gaps and questionable points in a story. Once the editor identifies any problems, the reporter can fix them before the paper publishes the story. The advantages here are twofold. Readers have a better understanding of the article and the paper is safe from any mistakes.

To prosecute a story, a paper must have editors that are not afraid to speak up when they notice things that seem out of place in a story. It is key for editors to learn early on that it is not simply their job to find grammar errors, but to question the copy. Part of an editor’s education should be dedicated to developing a skeptical eye. However, a skeptical eye is not enough if editors never learn how to speak up when that eye catches something. An article on thinklikeaneditor.com, discusses the importance editors asking the right questions.  Editors must think about all sides of the story and not simply work to see it published. The idea is to develop a story worthy of publication. Another article on the blog the Art and Craft of Intelligent Editing, points out the need for editors to look at a story from many angles. When editing a story, the editor must look at the big picture, the small details, the headline and the ending. An editor’s job is not complete until they have a story that they know is factual and that has all of its parts working together. In today’s world of twitter and constant information, getting facts straight can be more difficult than ever before. Editors and reporters must sort through the links and the tweets to get at the truth.

Editing goes so far beyond the typical expectations. Editors must be able to detect story elements that do not fit and need search for holes in a story. Although this may mean more time and effort for the editors once they find an issue, this is the job of the modern editor. Editors must work on deadlines sort through a vast amount of information and most importantly produce stories that keep publications’ credibility intact.

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