Archives for posts with tag: copy editing

As the main dayside news editor at the Missourian for the second half of the summer (and often the only person actually on duty at the desk), I’ve stayed busy with a lot of tasks besides editing stories. That’s partly because I’ve grown passionate about a more participatory style of journalism — a real engagement with readers. It’s what I’m going to be working on while a fellow at RJI next year, and I’ve been doing some experimenting this summer. I think the copy desk is a logical arm of the newsroom to practice and proselytize for engagement.

I offer up my default routine from the past several weeks, not as The Answer for what a copy desk should do, but as a starting point, for you guys to poke holes in. Here’s what I do each day. Probably each hour, actually. I just cycle through.


Transitions are rarely so clean as to have a discrete beginning, middle or end. Some of the projects within our transition, though, can have more finite targets.

Below you’ll see descriptions of some of those projects, followed by “launch date.” I expect some of these launches to change, or more interim goals added. But we all need a deadline, so I’ve attached them.

You’ll also see a name. Consider the person attached to the project as the primary coordinator. Plenty of other people will be involved. The coordinator will be at the point, and the one I’ll look to for monthly updates.

Here they are. Others will be added in coming days.


When news breaks, our goal is to get the word out to readers as quickly as possible. Keeping in mind the few limitations we have with Django (which really is not as limiting as it once was), here is how I believe we can best serve our readers in a breaking news situation.


Should we move the production teams to a different spot in the newsroom?

It seems logical that, if the new interactive copy editors are the digital hub of the newsroom, that they should be centrally located in the room, rather than in the corner. It also seems logical that, if the new interactive copy editors are also the voices of the newsroom most interacting with our online public that they might also be the people nearest the entrance to the newsroom, ready to interact with the real live public when it visits.

And how segregated within this room — if at all — does the new print team need to be to reinforce our plan to deal with print in isolation?

And how much does it matter? Especially in a newsroom where almost no one has permanent claim on any given desk?

So, we’re going to try this.

Missourian editors met today and it seems we have some basic agreement that it’s worth trying the print isolation model. This is the model Middletown experimented with, with some success, and it’s the “Full Van Dam” we’ve been discussing here and in person. At the meeting, I offered some thoughts on how isolating print production from the rest of our work might happen, as well as some thoughts on how our copy editors’ jobs might evolve as many of them lose their print responsibilities and, instead, take on emerging web production work. There were handouts:

It remains to the rest of the summer to flesh out this plan. The conversation continues.

I’m going to keep referencing the “Full Van Dam,” but I realize the term requires explanation for those of you who weren’t at the Missourian editors’ retreat a few weeks ago.

Graduate student Andrew Van Dam was at the retreat to represent the views of Team Junit, the group of students working with Tom Warhover and Joy Mayer to plan our transition to a new Junit online content management system. The team had crafted a series of recommendations for transforming the Missourian in anticipation of the system’s arrival. One of Andrew’s salient points was that to really transform the rhythm of the newsroom into a “Web-first” (or “online-mostly”? or “platform-independent”?) organization, we needed to compartmentalize print operations into a segregated team, freeing most of us from having to worry about it. Andrew suggested that print work was “infecting” our thinking about our product and said we had to “do the full Van Dam” — totally isolating print work — to get where we want to go.

Today, I just discovered that we’re not the first to think this way. The Middletown (Conn.) Press came to the same conclusion and has tried it — with, it seems, success. Hat tip to Joy for this post from the blog of Journal Register CEO John Paton. Editor Viktoria Sundqvist does most of the talking. An excerpt from her on the results of their experiment with isolating print production work, freeing desk editors to work online only:

We noticed a significant growth in web traffic during our experiment, but this slowed somewhat towards the end of the week. However, the drop-off rate from the early morning traffic into the afternoon slowed significantly, and the amount of time each person returned to the site increased dramatically. The amount of time each visitor spent on our site also increased.

Those outcomes would be very welcome at the Missourian. I think there’s a lot for us to learn from this. Note that Middletown just did this as experiment. Sundqvist herself handled all the print duties for a few days while the copy desk tried this out. She has since returned some print duties to the copy editors. But even as a temporary shift, it seems to have succeeded in resetting rhythms and perceptions. And it suggests this might be worth trying here. I urge you to read the post on Middletown. Then weigh in here. Should we try this?

Is copy editing, as we know it, becoming obsolete online? This is an increasingly common view, put forth very plainly (and Britishly) in this column from the London Evening Standard. Of course, in Britain copy editors are known as “sub-editors,” but the work they do is pretty much the same work we do here. Like it or not, news organizations are increasingly seeing the world as this columnist does. The perfectionist polish we insist on in the printed product, that the print production process requires, isn’t seen as necessary or even necessarily applicable to the product on the Web. As a result, newsrooms employ fewer copy editors, consolidate the work regionally, even outsource it.

If it is true that the work copy editors do has less relevance online, what becomes of copy editors as we move to an “online-mostly” newsroom? For the student who wants to leave here for a behind-the-scenes job at an “online-mostly” news organization, what skills should we be teaching? What does that online editing job look like? What should it look like here?