J-333 / News Editing

Frank E. Fee Jr.

Lecture Recap - Day 1

Greetings. I hope you find this and subsequent "Day" notes helpful. I welcome any ideas you may have.

If you've gotten this far, you've already accomplished one of the main objectives of the last few hours, which was to introduce you to the J-333 Web page. Don't forget that if you have any comments, questions, problems, etc., I want to hear them. Remember also the point stressed in class that there are no dumb questions. One hopes the same can be said of the answers you receive.

Besides the information contained in the handouts and the printed and Web syllabi, think about these ideas (in no particular order) from your first class.
(1) Despite what some people say, editing isn't some arcane activity practiced only by the terminally anal or pathologically meddlesome. You've edited and been edited in oral and written communication all your lives, and the point has always been the same: Clear, effective, persuasive communication. In one sense, all we're doing in this course is ratcheting up the sophistication and giving you some more tools to continue your editing -- to make you more effective communicators.
(2) Editing, and this course in particular, will draw on a lot of skills you've already learned. Dust off your notes from Precision Language -- those fundamentals are critical in editing. Remember that the points you mastered about news reporting and writing in J-231 are now the very ideas that guide the critique and editing of someone else's news stories. Ditto, graphics. Editing is where it all comes together.
(3) In this course the focus will change, sometimes examining the microactivities of the copy editor working on a word or sentence in a story, sometimes taking in the big picture of editing that includes all the stakeholders (reporters, editors and readers) at once.
(4) It's a fatal mistake in this course to crowd a deadline. Start your assignments early. (Boy, it was tough to wait this long to say that!)
(5) Listen to my off-the-cuff asides in class. They may give you better insights into life in the newsroom than the best textbooks can convey. Ask about anything that surprises you, puzzles you, disturbs you. Learn to listen to those things in the workplace, too.
(6) The stated focus of this course is copy editing for newspapers but it shouldn't take much brainpower to apply the lessons to your own career area. First of all, many of the skills in copy editing (best use of the best words, clarity, crispness, conciseness) are the skills of good communicators in magazines, public relations, advertising and broadcasting. Second, besides specific skills, this course will further introduce you to the way journalists think and operate, and why you see certain things in certain ways when you pick up the paper each day. That's important whether you are a PR executive or just an everyday citizen trying to participate effectively in civic affairs.



Carl Sessions Stepp, a fine journalist and senior editor of American Journalism Review, just this week contributed some thoughts to a news coaches' listserv discussion about the qualities of a good editor. As always, Carl's comments are thoughtful and right on the money. I thought I would pass them on to you.

"A good editor:

"1. Has the technical skills of a wordsmith plus the tangibles of a good
journalist and the intangibles of a good leader.
"2. Has a positive "storyside manner" by respecting writers.
"3. Edits confidently but judiciously.
"4. Edits in the writer's voice.
"5. Knows when not to edit.
"6. Has vision to see beyond the computer screen, to envision excellence
and help devise steps for achieving it.
"7. Treats both the details and the big picture.
"8. Serves as a resource for ideas and sources.
"9. Runs interference.
"10. Makes others' ideas and copy better not worse."

Quark Problems? If anyone wants some help on Quark, please let me know. We're going to be taking it slow and easy, but I'd be happy to provide some extra help and practice if anyone feels it would be important. Just say the word, we don't want to leave anybody behind or befuddled.



There didn't seem to be much trouble on this point but I'll say it for the record: Class starts promptly at 10 after the hour by my watch. Be there, as they say.

For some people this may be a given but just to put it on the record: All outside assignments must be:
1. Typed, double-space.
2. Stapled; not paper-clipped nor merely stacked.

Don't forget that your Student Surveys and Research Exercises are due at the beginning of the next class. And yes, there is a quiz scheduled for Day 2, covering the syllabus, some current events and the readings assigned to date.



E-mail check: Please use this link to send me an e-mail message now so I can compile a class e-mail roster. From time to time it may be necessary or helpful for me to send you a message.



Comments? Questions? Call 593-9851 (o) or 594-5251 (h), or send me an e-mail message for virtual office hours. Or, stop in for a real visit. You're always welcome.

-- Frank Fee