Publication protocols protect papers

7 Feb

In the fast-paced world of journalism, things go wrong.  It does not matter how big or small the staff is or the number of stories produced, journalists will make errors. Publications put protocols in place in an effort to keep those inevitable mistakes from happening often. These simple steps can be the difference between a flawless story and an embarrassment to the paper.

One of the important things laid out in publication protocols is what issues warrant a call to the reporter. In my editing class last year, my teacher stressed the importance of checking any changes made about people in the story. He loved to misspell names on second references in our practice editing assignments to see who would make a note to call the reporter and who would just assume the first spelling was correct. He made sure the class knew not to assume to know when a reporter messed up and when they did not. Details about people are often sensitive and most protocols recommend asking the person that actually spoke with them rather than drawing your own conclusions. One copy editor for the Gainesville Sun did not have this protocol as well mastered as my editing professor. They published a story about the Lil’ Wayne concert at the O’dome in which they made a female Leslie into a male.  Not calling to ask about personal details can lead to serious repercussions. However, things like reducing the wordiness of a story can be done without the reporter.

It is a balancing act trying to keep a story true to the facts and well edited. Stories are often the product of many peoples work. Between the assigning editor, the reporter and the copy editor, some stories really get around the newsroom. With that many people working on one piece of news, good communication and organization skills are essential.

Another important step in many publications protocols is to make sure the reporter has time to read the edited story. While deadlines and other time constraints make this difficult, it is not impossible. Having the original writer of a story give it a look before sending it to be published can clear up some major mistakes.

Newsroom protocols seem basic and the steps they outline should be like second nature to a copy editor. However, taking the time to learn the specific protocols of a particular publication and practicing them daily could save writers, editors and publishers a lot of grief.

I have attached a Google Doc with an example of one of my practice editing assignments from my editing professor: Editing assignment

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