Archives for posts with tag: los angeles times

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.

My second session of the day was titled “Twitter for Editors.” The session itself turned out to be a pretty straightforward introduction to Twitter, but I was able to jump into the Q&A afterward to share with people some of the things we’re doing at the Missourian. One question was: “What do we stop doing to make time for tweeting?”

That’s a question of priorities, of course. Those of you who’ve had been in editing class with me will be familiar with the concept of editing triage; some things are more important than others, and you usually can’t do everything. And yes, I’d put tweeting well down the list of a copy editor’s priorities (though not the news organization’s). But I jumped in to make this point: We’ve got to make copy editors more valuable. Clearly the top editors at many news organizations don’t value what we do enough, and so a lot of copy editors are losing their jobs. Taking on the task of tweeting for your news organization makes your job bigger, in a way that is likely to show results that will impress those same editors. We know at the Missourian that the more we tweet, the more we generate traffic to the website. Our analytics confirm that Twitter.com and direct referral (largely links via Twitter apps, we’ve surmised) are increasingly important contributors to our traffic.

After the session, Henry Fuhrmann, the assistant managing editor in charge of copy desks at the Los Angeles Times, introduced himself to me. He said copy editors at the Times have taken on the task of tweeting after hours, seeing it as an important contribution to the newspaper’s audience efforts and a natural extension of what copy editors already do. The Missourian, which places primary responsibility for tweeting on its copy desk, is on the right track, I think. And clearly, copy editors, learning to tweet well is a skill you can sell to desk chiefs.