J-333 / News Editing

Frank E. Fee Jr.

Lecture Recap - Day 5

"You could look it up." 

-- John Dougherty, managing editor

Today marks a transition, of sorts. Through this class, we have largely been examining some of the "editing with a big E" issues, such as story selection, news values, and accuracy as a context for everything we do. Those "Big E" issues, of course, contain some sub-issues as well, such as always checking a name in a story, always doing the math, etc.

I liked your discussions of the news selection at the four Ohio newspapers. Each of the teams helped bring out some important, occasionally subtle points that go into making a paper what it is. Those decisions, of course, go on to shape the view of the world that each of us as readers has.

Now, however, we move to "small e" issues in editing, the real nuts and bolts of copy editing.

The Lede

Good ledes require an understanding of what the story is about, and also an understanding of the reader -- what he or she knows or cares about, or is doing at the time the newspaper arrives.

They can't be wordy if they are to be effective, and they must not be obscure. Good, clear, direct writing is what's called for. The detail must be rich and relevant, but remember that too much detail in the lede can be clutter.

Your job as an editor is to assess the choices the reporter made in writing the story. Did he or she pick a "who" lede when a "what" lede is more appropriate? Does the lede center on the news, or does it focus more on what the reader would probably know already? Is there the right amount of context? Does the lede stretch credibility with a sweeping, unsupported statement? Your job is to make it right.

Remember the NICHE model in use at some Gannett newspapers: Readers must understand in five grafs what the news is and what it means to them.

News. Latest information. Basic facts: 5 W's. The "real" story?

Impact. What does it mean? What should she do? Who is affected? How? So what?

Context. Perspective, frame of reference. What's normal? What's surprising? 

Human Dimension. Detail, color, shows people in the news. Amplify, illustrate impact. Personal detail.

Enticing. Lively, interesting, easy to read. Draws readers into the story. Clear, concise style. Rich, relevant detail.

Reminders: AP Style quiz (M-R) on Day 6, which is the next class. It's open book, as usual.

And, of course, Topic Paper 2 is due. 

Newsroom Humor

(From the BONG Bull -THE BURNED-OUT NEWSPAPERCREATURES GUILD'S NEWSLETTER, published by Charley Stough of the Dayton Daily News, transmitted world wide on the New York Times News Service wire and enjoyed by copy editors everywhere):
A copy editor on his way out of the newsroom found the publisher standing over the office paper shredder with a piece of paper in his hand. "Listen," the boss said, "this is a very sensitive and important document, and my secretary has left. Can you make this thing work?" "Sure," the editor said. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button. "Wonderful!" the publisher said, "I just need one copy."

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 are always welcome.
-- Frank Fee