Archives for posts with tag: transition

I’m proud of the aggregated content Columbia Missourian journalists have created over the past two semesters on our interactive copy editing desk.

As the news industry tries to find its way toward a successful transition from print-oriented to “digital first” thinking, it’s tempting to view copy editors as a costly budget line rather than a valuable resource.

Other journalists, including American Copy Editors Society President Teresa Schmedding, have defended our profession by showing that copy editors create value for news organizations. Copy editors can be skilled at writing focused, SEO-friendly online headlines. They catch errors that can save publications from costly libel suits.

As research by Fred Vultee of Wayne State University has demonstrated, readers appreciate our efforts. They notice the difference between edited and unedited copy. In particular, copy editors’ work can make a difference in perceptions of liberal or conservative bias in our news stories.

Copy editors are also skilled at aggregating content. We’ve been doing that for decades by creating index material and packages of wire news briefs for print newspapers. In the digital-first environment, we can create similar material that can be posted as valuable, reader-friendly online content.

The San Jose Mercury News, my employer for more than a decade, was a pioneer in recognizing that copy editors are uniquely skilled at creating compelling aggregated content. Levi Sumagaysay, the Merc’s former business copy chief, is the author of the popular Good Morning Silicon Valley tech-industry blog at Jeremy C. Owens, a veteran of the Merc’s consolidated copy desk at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., succeeded me as writer of the daily 60-Second Business Break online newsletter.

Here at MU and the Columbia Missourian, Missouri sports is to us what Silicon Valley’s technology industries are to the Mercury News and  Missourian journalists on our interactive copy editing — or ICE — desk have brought thousands of page views to our site with The Week in Missouri Sports and The Week in Missouri Football features, which link to the best sports stories on and to interesting commentary on other sites, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Kansas City Star, ESPN, and even our crosstown rival, the Columbia Daily Tribune. (more…)

It’s not just a copy desk. It’s also a content desk.

One of the strengths of the Missourian’s interactive copy desk is that our editors also have been trained as reporters. They know how to gather information. They know how to write. They understand storytelling.

Of course, throughout the industry, copy editors and journalists with desk backgrounds contribute to the creation of news content. On the print side, in addition to writing headlines and other display type, copy editors compile packages of news briefs and content such as celebrity-news columns. At the San Jose Mercury News, the skills and knowledge of Silicon Valley I acquired as an editor on our copy desks transferred easily to my most recent job as an online editor and writer. Numerous former copy editors, for that matter, have found work as producers, editors and writers for news websites. Levi Sumagaysay, my former colleague on the Merc’s business copy desk, has brought her voice and technology-industry expertise to’s popular Good Morning Silicon Valley blog. Jeremy C. Owens, my successor as writer of’s daily 60-Second Business Break online newsletter, is also a veteran of the Merc’s copy desk.

The news industry, of course, has been in an often painful transition as readers shift from print to online — and now mobile — news sources. It’s been a struggle for many of us, but I’m optimistic about the future. The new CEO of the Merc’s parent company believes that “digital revenues can pay for newspaper newsrooms.” Publications throughout the country are shifting to a digital-first model while still maintaining high standards for their print publications.

The Missourian has been a leader in the transition to a “Web first” newsroom, and copy editors have been central to that change — literally. The Missourian moved its copy editors to a new interactive copy editing desk (affectionately known as the ICE box) in the center of the newsroom, adjacent to a hub desk staffed by news and city editors. Nick Jungman, my predecessor as the Missourian’s Knight visiting editor/visiting assistant professor, chronicled the transition on this blog.

Thanks to the efforts of Nick and other Missourian editors, the ICE desk editors are the day-to-day producers of In addition to editing stories and writing headlines, they curate links and build features such as photo galleries. They help moderate comments and bring Missourian stories directly to readers via Facebook and Twitter. They are also bringing a storytelling approach to aggregated content. (Read more about that in a future post.)

I’m excited to join the Missourian in this transition. I’d also like to learn more about how editors throughout the industry are contributing to their newsrooms’ online and mobile efforts. Please join the conversation by leaving a comment.

(also posted on the Reynolds Journalism Institute blog)

by Jake Sherlock

Print Editor (and Opinion Editor, and assistant professor)

The idea behind The Transition was to isolate our print operations into one small team that would handle the five-day-a-week community newspaper, which is managed by professionals and produced by students.

That team would consist of one faculty editor, the students in the Advanced News Design class, a few paid students working as designers and editors, and a pair of media assistants handling the less glamorous side of print production like putting ads on pages and filling in lottery numbers.

No managing editor. No photo editor. No graphics editor. No reporters. They were all left to focus on our digital offerings.

Oh, and about that isolation thing? We’re tucked back into the far corner of the newsroom. It’s not a basement boiler room, but we’re clearly not the focus of the newsroom. That honor goes to the interactive copy desk now, and its close companion, The Hub, where all of the content-producing editors gather to coordinate our digital offerings.

We print folk do our own thing.

They have, and we have the Columbia Missourian. For a long time, the two publications mirrored each other. That ended under The Transition. Among the changes:

  • We no longer discuss the print product at our afternoon budget meeting. The focus is all about what’s already online, what’s still to come and how it’s going to be handled digitally. Print team members sit in on these meetings, take notes, and then decide which content is best for print.
  • We no longer wait for content to come to us. We work the newsroom to get what we want. (This is where The Hub comes in handy.) We have a limited news hole and a ton of online offerings.
  • We only “order” print content from departments as part of our presentation. Example: Previously, our graphics staff would conceive graphics for print and shovel them online. Now, all graphics are made for an online presentation; print graphics are only made if the print team asks for them.
  • We follow our own publication schedule. If the piece of journalism has a yesterday, today or tomorrow attached to it, it runs right away. But we will hold a centerpiece package to run when we can give it the best presentation possible. The same goes for a long narrative or a photo essay. Or we might hold something to produce print-only companion content.
  • We produce content. My favorite example came with our Thanksgiving food page, in which the designers each contributed a Thanksgiving recipe to a doubletruck page. Everyone prepared their own dish, then brought them to the photo studio for a shoot. It was a fun team-building exercise (anything with food and journalists usually is), and a great way to share recipes with our readers that they too could make for the holidays.

Working the room certainly changed some dynamics. With all of the “official” meetings focused on digital, other editors would come to our corner of the newsroom to make recommendations or lobby for front-page play.

The managing editor would stop by at 6 p.m. for a quick check-in and to get a rundown of what was happening on the front page.

But overall, their focus was still where we wanted it to be: How to deliver news digitally.

No longer is the entire newsroom dictated by print deadlines.

Just us.

Overall, I’m proud of the work our students did. Even with fewer resources and fewer copy editors, we maintained our quality while giving the Missourian a much different identity than its online sister publications. The print team learned to be resourceful, nimble and proactive journalists, which are essential skills for any platform.

But most importantly, we didn’t just think about the reader – we thought about today’s PRINT reader.

Find out more about the work the Missourian’s print team is doing at

Hey all. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mary Daly, your Missourian transition reporter/observer/analyst (haven’t quite come up with a title yet). While working as a reporter and page designer, I’ll also be monitoring the progress of the transition, talking to and shadowing people in all the different departments about their ideas and reporting my findings through this blog each week and meetings every few weeks, where we can all get together to discuss.

Week one got us off to a successful start. I’ve heard a lot of compliments about the new newsroom setup, both from returning staff members and new ones. The hub desk seems to be a hit. It’s definitely been beneficial to have all the people who help facilitate decision in one place, and from the reporter’s viewpoint, new students seemed to know right away that was the place to go to find an ACE or editor.


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This spring, Clyde Bentley made clear the urgency for newspapers to jump on the mobile bus before they get run over by it.

So how does the Missourian move into that space? How does it get into the business of mobile news and advertising content? What do we deliver? And how can we use mobile devices better in our information gathering?

Clyde, of course, will continue his research in and advocacy for mobile from the academic side of the aisle. He’ll teach, for instance, a topics course in spring centered around the movement.

Dan Potter is brainstorming with his staff about the potential for new revenue streams, including from mobile.

What about the newsroom?

At the May retreat, we talked about the need to have some “champions” for things like mobile and social media.

Good news: Katherine Reed has agreed to serve as mobile editor for the coming year.

She’ll have her regular teaching and assigning editor duties. But she’ll also help us figure out where we need to go and what we need to do it. We don’t lack for possibilities; we just need to make a guess as to best places to start.

I hope you’ll offer your ideas, whether here or to Katherine directly. We’ll most likely talk more about mobile at the fall retreat.

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