Friday, May 1, 2009

Why Tribune isn’t wrong to focus on trimming its editing staff

It’s understandable that there’s much angst among page designers and copy editors about the Tribune’s approach to editing. As has been the case with much that company has done, its communication has been clumsy and muddied the waters. But any newspaper editor facing today’s economic challenges must ask the same question: How do we provide as much original content as possible to maintain our value to readers? One answer is by keeping as many journalists as possible who produce original material and trimming the staff elsewhere. (Of course, there are others, such as using more local outside contributors, paid and unpaid.) The editing process is one part of a newspaper that needs to be examined. And it needs to be simplified if at all possible, with a hierarchy of editing standards, depending on the content. While the value of good copy editing and design is clear, too often the real benefits get lost in newsrooms where editors move commas or adjust for AP style on version after version, instead of focusing on what’s most important: accuracy, fairness and clarity. That shouldn’t just be the emphasis at the end of the day, but right from the start.

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  1. It's ironic that this post had a typo in the headline when I first put it up. A friend pointed it out, and I quickly fixed it. That points out two things. 1.) The web is a self-correcting medium. 2.) Everybody needs an editor. The question is how many. One would be nice. But at a metro newspaper a story might go from reporter to assigning editor to page designer to copy editor to slot to proof to slot and then to typeset, or some version of that process. At some places, roughly the same thing happens with wire copy. That does have to change.

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