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The good editor

The good editor. How to be one. “The Right Stuff”. Good editors seem to have certain skills in common. Editors are detail oriented. They catch the typos, the grammar, spelling, fact errors others miss. They see mistakes in design as well as copy. Good editors. Editors are well read.

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The good editor

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  1. The good editor How to be one

  2. “The Right Stuff” Good editors seem to have certain skills in common. • Editors are detail oriented. • They catch the typos, the grammar, spelling, fact errors others miss. • They see mistakes in design as well as copy.

  3. Good editors • Editors are well read. • They spend a lot of time reading, both at their jobs and beyond. • They may have encyclopedic knowledge of the world, and certainly will have about their own area. • They probably like trivia contests.

  4. Carr Van anda • Carr Van Anda, a famous (perhaps the only famous?) editor from the New York Times, was legendary for his breadth of knowledge. • Supposedly he could, for example, edit Latin as easily as English.

  5. Good editors • Good editors remain calm. It is they who often anchor a newsroom. • They need to work fast against tight deadlines without emotional drama. • Things can get crazy in the mass media business. I kid you not.

  6. Advantages • Okay, maybe I kid a little. But it does get crazy sometimes. Editors need to anchor. • What advantages can a good editor enjoy in the mass media industry?

  7. Advantages • Higher pay, better opportunities for advancement in mass media industries. It’s usually an editor who becomes editor-in-chief. • Possibly better job prospects. While some media organizations have downsized editors, a good editor is still uncommon. Most people interested in journalism prefer reporting.

  8. Advantages • Feeling of being in the center of things. You’re the glue that holds the place together. You know the big picture. • Good opportunity for those with physical disabilities. Editors don’t move around much.

  9. Disadvantages • Editors don’t move around much. • In the journalism business, photographers get out most—they have to be there. Reporters get out some, and both are more likely to meet the famous and the glamorous. • Editors tend not to meet famous people. But is that such a bad thing, really?

  10. Disadvantages • Hours may be unattractive. • Mass media editors tend to work evenings or nights, because most journalism operations launch new publications or website updates in the morning. • Editors for publishers may work more regular hours.

  11. Disadvantages • Not an ego-building job. • Reporters and photographers get bylines. Editors seldom do. • Editors seldom have an opportunity to write themselves. • Some editors do have an opportunity to establish a social media presence, or write a blog.

  12. Good editors • But if you’re good, you’ll be in demand—because good editors are rare.

  13. How they fit in • How do editors fit into the big picture of mass communication industry? Here’s Ross’s handy poster! (Free downloads available!)

  14. Concise Editing Editors in principle try to read a story at least three times: • Read the story. • Edit thoroughly. • Reread the story.

  15. The process of editing • It’s easy to skip the first and third readings, and just edit, particularly if you’re in a hurry. • But it’s important to read the story once through so you know what it’s about. • If you don’t understand the purpose and style of the story, it’s hard to edit well.

  16. Adding mistakes • It’s also important to reread and not only make sure you didn’t miss anything, but don’t ADD mistakes. • You can introduce new errors through careless editing, often by assuming you know something without bothering to look it up. • It’s really embarrassing to both editor and writer when such mistakes end up in a story. • Correcting supposedly misspelled proper names and places is common.

  17. Changing style • We’re not talking about AP style here—we’re talking about the way the writer puts words together. • Sensitive editors avoid editing copy merely because they don’t like the way the author wrote it. • It also demoralizes writers who worked hard on a story, only to see it rewritten gratuitously. • Remember: it’s not your story!

  18. Sensitive editing • If I find a need to edit, I try to avoid using words I would use. • Instead I go through the story and look for words the author uses. • For example, I use the word “myriad” fairly often. But it’s not a common word. So I would avoid that, look for a synonym within the author’s story.

  19. Sensitive editing • If there’s time, it’s actually better to go back to the writer and talk about needed changes, then let the writer do the work. • On the other hand, while an editor is responsible to her writers, She’s also responsible to her readers. • An editor can’t let a poorly written story appear. It damages credibility.

  20. The editing process • Editors generally have a hierarchy of editing goals, and proceed often using their own system. • For example, here’s my system: • First read: catch typos and AP style errors. • Second read: fix grammar, word clutter, sentence structure, poor leads. • Third read: consider larger issues, such as missing information, clichés, even libel. Make sure I caught everything.

  21. The editing process • Questions editors should ask: • Does the storoy make sense? • What is missing? Does it need to be considered? • Does it read smoothly? • What questions might readers ask? • Are all names spelled correctly? Do I need to double-check?

  22. Other considerations • Active voice. About 90 percent of sentences in mass media stories should be in active voice. • Hoaxes: Is this story really credible? • Obscenities: What can we allow? • Double-entendres: Have a “dirty mind.” • Taste: Will our readers accept this? • Quotes: Do we have enough? Too many? Does the writer need to talk to more people? Note a single-interview story generally is not adequate.

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