Archives for posts with tag: copy flow

Are copy editors becoming a sort of information architect? User-experience engineer? They seem to be at the Los Angeles Times. Dan Gaines, managing editor for operations at LATimes.com, led a session on how copy editors can get involved in the honing of interactive presentations.

These things are often very complicated and jam-packed with information. The designers spend so much time with them, they become unable to pass judgment on how good they are. Copy editors are trained to think like readers and to read for detail. They can make interactive graphics markedly better. ”We find that the more people we have look at these things, they happier we are with the results,” Gaines said.

Here’s an example of an interactive graphic that has been noted as a striking example of the form, but that Gaines finds lacking. What do the colors mean? Is it readable? Why are the colors in the semicircle at top and the main graphic below different? These are problems that copy editors are apt to notice. Gaines compiled a series of examples, both good and bad, on a Tumblr blog.

The problem, of course, is that the process for getting that editing done is haphazard at best, even at the Times, it seems. It’s no better at the Missourian. But as this style of information presentation proliferates, this editing becomes more important. It’s something we need to look at closely at the Missourian.

One bit of evidence I’m marshaling to prove we’re making some progress with this transition is what has happened on Fridays.

First, a confession: I screwed up Fridays. We went into this transition with the idea that we’d radically transform the production organization, focusing totally on the needs of the website and leaving every print concern to the print team. Except that’s not what I did when I scheduled the Interactive Copy Desk on Fridays. Because we don’t have a Saturday morning print edition anymore, we haven’t been scheduling Friday-night copy editors. When I came up with the schedule for the new Interactive Copy Desk, I scheduled Friday as we usually have — minimal staff all day, no real staff at night.

So (and I’m sure you see where this is going) we were caught flat-footed when we realized that, post-transition, Friday is just another weekday, and maybe a busier one than most. We’ve got roughly the same number of reporters working and a daily GA editor driving them. We’ve got at least the same amount of work flowing to the desk at the end of the day — probably more, given a tendency for some longer-range work to arrive at week’s end and for things to queue up in advance of the thinly staffed weekend.

It’s a happy problem. For now, we doing what we can, moving some resources to Friday and benefiting greatly from the double-time efforts of Michelle Hagopian, our late TA on Fridays, and pitching-in from Grant Hodder and the sports desk, who have always had work to do on Friday nights, with prep sports happening late. And we’re trying to sometimes draw a line on Friday evenings, at about 7, beyond which we defer any work we can to the Saturday desk, which is staffed pretty well.

What other evidence have you seen? Is there evidence to the contrary?

In an overnight note from one my shifts on the night interactive desk recently, I suggested to editors that we needed to be careful about perpetually updating one existing story on the website.

I think it’s good that we update “in place” with breaking news stories. The initial link that we share via social media, and that our readers share with their friends, percolates for hours, at least, through our potential audience. While that link is actively circulating, it ought to take readers who click it to the latest information.

But when we update an hours-old story on the site with new information, we run a risk of inadequately alerting our regular readers that there is new information. The word “UPDATE:” is pre-pended to the headline with the very first update, but with subsequent updates, we aren’t very good about changing the headline to highlight new information. Readers don’t get good flags from us that there’s new information. Especially when a story has aged itself off the home page, it doesn’t make much sense to bury new information in it. And if our update is relatively minor, it doesn’t make much sense to resurface an old story on the home page. At some point, we need to close the original story and start a new one, even if it’s just a brief.

I’m not sure we do the best job of making clear to readers what is new when we do the updates in place, either. We’ll sometimes highlight the new information and flag it with a headnote or footnote. At other times, new information is just silently dropped into place, with no formal notice to a reader who might be following the story closely. I’ve seen other sites do time-stamped, reverse-chronological updates, with new information simply added in a new grafs at the top of the file, like blog posts.

Do you have thoughts about how this works ideally? Do you want to defend our current system? Have you seen this done well at another news site you frequent?

Joy Mayer is back from (a) her explorations in mythical Junitland and (b) her seven-week pseudo-sabbatical and has taken residence on the dayside news desk. Her focus has been to keep the website fresh, updated and interactive, in the spirit of Tom’s death sentence for the three-a-day updates. On Monday, she made an interesting observation at the 3 p.m. budget meeting: This is a “lonely” job.

“Lonely,” she means, in the sense that there is not a copy cycle behind her that constantly pushing fresh content from the newsroom at large into her hands. Still, copy trickles during the day and it rushes in as evening approaches. So the mandate to keep the website fresh means shuffling existing content a bit and pushing even the smallest state-wire updates to the home page.

Tom and I recognized this early in our conversations about this transition. Given our student staffers’ schedules — classes in the morning, here to work after lunch — perhaps an even, steady flow of content over a 12-hour cycle (let alone an 18- or 24-hour one) is not in the cards. But what is possible here? What could we do move more content earlier? And let’s be sure that by “content” we all are talking about more than just written updates. How can we get multimedia content into place more immediately — more freshly?

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.

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