Home > editing, Uncategorized > Editors: Do we really need them? (AM class)

Editors: Do we really need them? (AM class)

If you’re in the morning class, please post your comments here.

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  1. Kelly Morris
    January 19, 2010 at 11:50 am

    It’s clear that everything around us is changing; including the way news is delivered and processed. I thought valid points were made in both articles I read.
    Initially I thought that eliminating editors is the way to go. People these days are expected to do more things, like reporting on a story, taking pictures, and shooting and editing scenes for the online edition, so it shouldn’t be a problem to edit their own work as well. The article made the point that editors aren’t always available when the stories need to be published, so being your own editor makes sense.
    Then, after reading the next article, I thought that an editor is completely necessary. One person that specializes in only looking for mistakes is much better than trying to re read your own work. I constantly miss my own mistakes, and if employees around are supposed “buddy edit” as the article describes, then they can easily scan over the article and miss mistakes as well, because they are trained for reporting, not editing.
    So, after carefully thinking about both articles, I have decided that either reporters need to be specifically trained as editors as well, or editors need to keep being employed and available at all times. Even something as small as one spelling error can make a newspaper loose credit, so proper editing is vital.
    Even with all the changing technology, I don’t think there is a way to ensure quality editing without someone actually going through the story themselves. Sure there is spelling and grammar checks on the computer, but even those are often wrong and don’t catch every mistake, especially things like misspelled names.
    These don’t really change my view on my future as a journalist because I had always assumed I would need to know how to edit as well as report. I think editing is a really great skill that also helps me in my other classes as well, so I am excited to learn how to be my own editor.

  2. Sarah Morris
    January 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Both of the articles that I read had valid points. Therefore, in my opinion I believe that there should still be copy editors and I also believe that each person should be his or her own editor.
    There is no harm in checking work more than once or twice. Only good can come of it. Either more mistakes are found and corrected, or revisions to the work are done to make it a better piece.
    Although getting rid of editors may cut expenses, taking the risk of imperfection is not worth the money being saved and the reputation at hold.

  3. Emily Giller
    January 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    After reviewing the articles I can see both points a view, which makes it hard to choose which side has a more valid point.
    On one side, journalism is rapidly changing. Journalists are expected to know how to write, edit, use a camera, blog, etc. It only makes sense that newspapers start requiring that reporters become their own editors. Every journalist should be taught AP style and should be expected to know how to use it.
    On the other side though, editors specialize in editing. They know how to catch and fix mistakes quickly. Not only that, but from my personal experience, it is very hard correcting your own work because you want to think that everything you’ve written is correct and that you couldn’t have made any mistakes. That is why editors are there, because they become that objective point of view needed to improve news stories.
    I think it is important for both reporters and editors to know how the other one works. And although cutting editors saves money, I still believe editors are just as important in a newsroom as reporters are.

  4. Seanica
    January 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    After looking at both articles, I do think editors are still needed. One of the roles of editors is to catch the silly mistakes in the stories before they are printed in the paper. Yes, the world of journalism has changed a lot and is still changing, but readers still look to the paper not only for accuracy and truth, but for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. The biggest problem stems from the online news world. The second article shows how different things are with online journalism. Reporters and editors can do their work while they are doing other things at home. Readers want everything immediately, but I think the journalists and editors need to realize that it’s still important to make sure the stories are written correctly without mistakes before they are put online or in the paper. As a future journalist, I see that I not only need to concentrate on my stories and their content, but also trying to make sure I edit my own work as much as I can before I send it to the editor or copy editor to handle. Editors have a lot to deal with already with the roles they have, so I really don’t think their roles need to be redefined. I just think that they need to hold the reporters more accountable so the reporters can help out with editing their own pieces beforehand instead of thinking, “oh, my editor will fix my mistakes.”

  5. Rhiannon
    January 24, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Editors are absolutely necessary. Without them errors would run rampant throughout the news. Do mistakes slip by even with an editor? Yep, but it would be much, much worse without them. Editors are pros, and usually have experience in whatever section they are editing. Therefore, they’ve got knowledge and experience that are incredibly valuable.

    All journalists should be their own editor, but, letting someone else read the story before it goes to press is always a good idea. Sometimes writers get too stuck in their own heads and even though they know what they mean, others might not. Clarity is essential in good writing. Editors work to achieve clarity with their journalists. So there’s no question about it, editors are vial.

    The Alexander article makes mention of how the 24 hour news cycle not only pressure journalists to get their stories out sooner. He also mentions that budget cuts and the internet are putting more editors on the chopping block. I understand the demands, but I cannot agree with this trend. Accuracy is much more important than speed. And frankly, if you mess up some basic rule of grammar, it not only could harm your credibility but also your organization’s trustworthiness. It is in the best interest of the news industry to have editors.

  6. Max Olson
    January 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Editors are still unbelievably necessary to newspapers. There’s no doubt that getting things online as quickly as possible is more important than ever, but if a newspaper doesn’t provide content that’s consistently clean and accurate, how much better are newspaper sites than any other news site that have less access? I suppose it always seemed logical to me, prior to reading these articles, that the copy desk would receive the most cuts. Cutting those positions saves money without causing excessive damage to content – or does it? I found Mandy St. Amand’s idea of a trade-off scenario between “get it first” and “get it right” intriguing, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s possible that copy editors are most affected by that conflict: They’re pressured to edit fast so stories can get online fast, but they’re also the first people who get blamed when readers find mistakes.

    The more reporters are able to post their stories directly to the Internet, without editorial oversight, the more you put a paper at risk. Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell put it best when she says in the AJR article that editors are the “last stop before disaster.” In my mind, the “disaster” is as much the possibility of a lawsuit as it is the degradation of a newspaper’s credibility. A way to ensure quality of breaking news content is something I bet every newspaper is looking for these days, and I don’t have a perfect answer for this issue. I think all content should go through a section editor before it’s posted, and in most cases that would probably help avoid factual errors. Reporters who get it right in the first place are also more valuable than ever, so training them spot the errors that copy editors look for could help improve the quality of online content as well.

    This post did make me think about my role as a journalist. It’s important to understand the changing infrastructure of the daily newspaper, and even more important to understand what’s expected of reporters these days. At times I have taken copy editors for granted and underestimated their importance to a daily newspaper, and these stories made me rethink my stance.

  7. Jordan Minnick
    January 25, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Cutting copy editors in the newsroom is inevitable in today’s newspaper industry, but at a great cost as we see in The Washington Post article. A paper’s credibility is at risk with every missed error that a normal amount of copy editors could have caught. When readers see errors, it is feasible that they’ll get distracted from even reading an article with errors at hand. If the error is huge, a newspaper could have furious people on their doorstep. There is also the added labor of running corrections. All can really shake a newspaper’s credibility.

    In order to keep the amount of editors needed for a successful newspaper, I believe that today’s industry needs to transition to what my high school journalism advisor called “backpack journalists.” These journalists are able to get a story and cover it in all aspects (writing, photos, video; the latter two are very important for Web sites). This would make for less yet more efficient reporters on the job, giving room for a proficient editing branch. I don’t think a reporter can be their own sole editor. Backpack journalists have multiple tasks at hand and you can’t expect someone to catch all their own errors.

    I can agree with the second article to a degree. Reporters should always have the mindset of being their own editors. Reporters still need to rely on others’ editing skills. In my opinion, editors will always be needed and be of use.

  8. Benjamin
    January 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    As we approach a day and age where editors are often times being laid-off from the newsroom, we are also approaching a time where more and more mistakes are apparently being found in print, and online. Mistakes that swim through the editor’s eye and get passed on to print are a big problem in the newsroom. The news needs to be exact, and mistakes cannot be tolerated. People expect professionalism from the people who are delivering their news, whether it is in print or online. Editors are an incredibly important part of what it takes to put together a successful news story. It is human nature to make mistakes; no one can be 100 percent 100 percent of the time. Without editors available to double-check facts and grammar mistakes are going to get published. Andrew Alexander was very right in stating: “In the end nothing can replace the experienced, fastidious copy editor. And nothing can help them more than reporters getting it right in the first place.”

  9. Ryan Evans
    January 25, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    To some, the battle of the news in print versus the news online comes down to weighing the option of holding something tangible in their hand or having the ease of access to rapidly available reporting. Certainly, the Internet has changed the way that we take in our news. The convenience of having multiple news sources and levels of coverage at one’s figure tips should be looked upon as a definite advantage that has not ever existed before.
    Beyond the advantage of instant gratification for news junkies, there may remain a trap which the newspaper industry has created for itself after fostering the new 24/7 environment of having to scoop each other. The quest of newspapers to break a story first is nothing new. However, in this day of digital publication, the temptation to post a story online before it goes through the usual round of editors can sometimes prove to be problematic. As Alan Achkar, Deputy Metro Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says in Stepp’s article, “You often worry that we’re just slapping stuff online without properly vetting it.”
    As pointed out in Stepp’s article, as well as in Alexander’s, readers will not be afraid to let the paper know of their mistakes, no matter how miniscule. What’s worse, while some may understand the immediate errors that tend to be present in hastily-posted online stories, these mistakes are also making their way in to daily print publications. Both writers provide examples of misspelling, improper word usage, and even potential factual errors that should have been caught by a copy editor.
    Between 2005 and 2008, Alexander writes that the number of copy editors at The Washington Post’s number of full-time copy editors declined from about 75 to 43. He also wrote that the duties of those editors have expanded to include working to make online stories more search engine-friendly, distracting from their traditional editing duties.
    Inevitably, the future journalist will have to develop better self-editing skills, especially as the individual writer is permitted to post directly to a Web site. The desire of news outlets to be the first out the gate with a story will never go away, and as the duties of editors become more diversified, so too will the duty of the reporter. Yes, the world of journalism will always need editors. However, in order to be successful and cope with the reality of not having a fully-committed copy desk to edit stories, reporters will have to diversify their skill sets as well, being certain to fact check, use reliable sources, and proofread their own work. The situation is anything but ideal, but for better or worse, it is the reality journalists and face in the 21st century.

  10. Dan Hoppen
    January 25, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I definitely think editors are still needed, especially after reading these two articles. There are too many problems with asking a writer to edit themselves. As I writer, I try to proofread everything I write a couple times before submitting it to my editor. But there are often things that they catch that I simply missed or didn’t realize were wrong. When writers read their own work, they have a good idea of what they’re about to read next. Because of this, it’s easy to skim and maybe miss a simple spelling error or wrong punctuation mark. Editors also play the key role in that they can tell the writer when they may have crossed the line. Whether a writer has included too much personal opinion or has maybe touched on an issue that the newspaper can’t confront at a certain time, it’s the editor’s job to catch those errors.
    I do think the editor’s role has been redefined to an extent, simply because there are less and less of them in newsrooms now. Now, an editor is expected to proofread more stories than ever before. This increased workload can lead to editors rushing through stories and missing errors. It also gives the editors less time to work on their headlines, which in turn to lack creativity and zip. Headlines are often what draws a reader to a publication or specific story, and this can hurt sales. To help the editors, I liked the “buddy system” idea in the American Journalism Review. If writers can get a couple people around them to spare just a couple minutes and give their story a quick proofread, the story would likely contain less errors and make the editors job a little easier once its finally his or her turn to take a look at it.
    The increased importance of online publication makes an editor’s job even more difficult. People want news as soon as it happens, and speed becomes king. This gives editors even less time to edit a story before it hits the web. Computer programs that have spelling and grammar checks are helpful, but they don’t catch factual errors or silly mistakes, like the story in which the writer said a woman lost her right arm first, then later said it was her left. The most obvious solution would be to hire more editors; however, for most newspapers, this simply isn’t a possibility. Editors are being laid off, not hired. Increased training is one thing that will help editors in the future. In college, potential editors are now being taught how to quickly and efficiently edit for online content, something that most of today’s editors didn’t have in school. Equipping young editors with a better knowledge of online editing and content will allow them to be more experienced once they hit the workplace.
    These articles obviously don’t make me feel great about the direction in which the industry is heading. Almost every newspaper mentioned was said to be laying off staff. The combination of the economy and the increased importance of online content has taken its toll on newspapers. For me, this just means I need to be able to do more than write. If I can enter the workplace as a proficient editor of my own work who understands the internet and how to put content online, I can make myself more valuable and important to the people who may want to hire me.

  11. DeShaun
    January 25, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Are editors still needed? A simple answer, YES! Editors are key to the legitimacy of many news outlets. As a newspaper, or just a news outlet in general, the general public reads your stories expecting them to be flawless of errors. I know I do. Sometimes when I read stories or articles that have a lot of errors I lose confidence in what I’m reading. But we are all humans so we make mistakes from time to time. Trust me I’m no grammar king by any means. That’s where the job of an editor comes in; with an editor a lot of the errors people make while writing are reduced. Editors are unsung heroes in a newsroom. With a lot of news outlets cutting editors I can understand why they’re maybe an increase in errors found in stories published. I do agree with Andrew Alexander when he says that the pressure to publish stories up online as quickly as possible does increase the rate of human error. So if you combine the reduction of editors and the pressure to post stories online rapidly then you can see reason’s why the quality of stories have gone down.
    As writers we should not lean heavily on editors and spell check to catch all of our errors. The first person to edit your writing should be yourself. I think if all writers, including myself, consciously proof read our work so much pressure wouldn’t be on the editors. One technique I was taught was to read you copy aloud to yourself to catch error you may have missed. It helps me out a lot. What I’m starting to get from this class is that we all must be our own editors because reducing the errors in your work before it gets to the editor can make the newsroom run smoother for everyone. Hey don’t forget about the buddy system. Having someone read your copy before you submit it to the editor can help you out too. Editing is important no matter what you do; it makes your work better, more accurate, and legit.

  12. Tom Grant
    January 25, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Editors are an absolute necessity in the journalism field and in my opinion, always will be. In a day of modern technology where journalist’s articles and information are being put on a website before it comes out in an actual hard copy of a newspaper, it makes what editors do all the more important. When I write, I often times get into a writing groove and just write without stopping. I personally feel this is good to do because it keeps a steady flow but it also does not allow me glance over every sentence as I write it. When I go back to look and edit my own work, it is possible to get into the same type of groove again and possibly glance over an error of theirs without even noticing. This is where the job of an editor is so vitally important. A new set of eyes on any paper is always helpful. Countless times I have had someone else look at a paper I’ve written and they’ll notice something very simple I missed simply because I had already looked over it so many times that I would just be blind to a minor error. More importantly for newspapers, editors bring another opinion and voice when a writer needs advice. Is the story ethical? Is the story appropriate for its target audience? An editor can be helpful beyond simply looking at a paper and finding a spelling mistake. They can bring other ideas to the newsroom on top of preparing stories to be published. If a story goes out with something as much as a misspelled name then the newspaper is at risk of a lawsuit. I do believe that writers have the responsibility to edit the majority of their own work but there will always be a place for editors in the journalism world. Without editors, newspapers will be full of more mistakes that a machine simply can’t catch. If they continue to be fired due to money issues then the quality of writing will downward spiral greatly.

  13. Kristin Bauer
    January 25, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Editors are an essential part of news reporting. Even before reading the two articles provided, I believed that a newsroom could not be fully functional without the component of copy editors. It is sadly true that some reporters rely too heavily on the support of their editors.

    These two articles prove that editors are needed in news today more than ever before. The introduction of the Internet gave journalists a new responsibility and duty: to provide breaking news stories minutes after they occur. Because of this fast-paced new philosophy, reporters often overlook simple grammatical errors.

    The article written by Andrew Alexander illustrates a few of the careless errors that occurred recently in the Washington Post.

    After a few seconds of research, I found that the Washington Post is ranked as the fifth most popular newspaper in the United States. This means that the fifth most popular newspaper in the United States recently published an article describing a fallen soldier as wearing “shiny black boats,” instead of “shiny black boots.” If this does not prove the need for editors, then I don’t know what does.

    The articles mention the possibility of redefining the roles of editors to make editing convenient and quick. I think that a change is needed in newsrooms today, but I do not think that change should be cutting copy editors. Many people think that editors would not be needed if reporters were more knowledgeable and trained with the basic skills of editing and grammar. I think it is true that errors would be reduced if reporters were more careful and checked their work before publishing, but I also strongly believe in the need for a second opinion. It is important for stories to be double checked by someone who has a keen eye and knows the rules of editing like second nature. No matter how careful reporters are, there is always a chance that something catastrophic could slip by. Editors reduce the chance of that happening.

    I think there are other ways to ensure quality when stories are posted quickly online. Carl Sessions Stepp points out some great ideas on how to improve the quality of your online news. He mentions the possibility of bringing editors in earlier to assist reporters with online editing. He also suggests encouraging “buddy editing,” which is something we all utilize. Another set of eyes often helps catch simple errors that are not caught by the author as he or she scans for mistakes. Stepp also suggests using a “preview” directory that prevents online material from being published until an editor has a chance to look over it. All of these ideas would be beneficial to any newsroom.

    These articles make me feel differently about my role as a future journalist. In past classes, I overlooked the importance of learning AP style and grammar because I have always taken comfort in the idea of editors. I always imagined that, in the future, there would be editors around to correct my work. These articles have made me realize that this may not be the case. If editors are slowly being phased out of journalism, then it is likely that they won’t be around when I begin my future career.

    Editors are an essential part of news reporting—today—but there is no guarantee they will be around forever.

  14. Damien Croghan
    January 26, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Copy editors are assets in the newsroom, more so now than in the past. Journalists are expected to do everything; no reporter only writes articles. The industry needs versatile jack-of-all-trades journalists able to sufficiently write, copy edit, and post their articles to the unforgiving 24-hour news cycle on the internet without the watchful eye of a copy editor glancing at their work.

    The field of journalism has shifted in this direction as the convergence of media becomes more prevalent. This spreads journalists too thin in some cases. With the modern workload of a journalist weighing them down, small errors will inevitably go unchecked and be published.

    Andrew Alexander points out in his article that style errors “have become annoying and are damaging The Post’s credibility.” Budget deficits and other problems have let to copy editor cutbacks. Copy editor cutbacks could cause readership to go down dramatically as a publication’s credibility is lost. More cutbacks could be made, an even more intense workload for journalists and less time to correct the style errors is created. This is a potentially vicious cycle.

    The Post went from 900 to 650 full-time equivalent employees in the last decade. However, the last 10 years have introduced 24-hour, online news coverage, not to mention print and broadcast convergence. There is more work to be done with fewer employees.

    In Carl Session Step’s article, Bill McClellan talked about an error he made in an article. Instead of blaming the copy editors for not catching the error he made, he said: “You never do more with less. You do less with less. You have fewer copy editors, more mistakes get through.”

    The lower amount of employees is not the only thing an increase in newspaper grammatical errors can be blamed on. The copy editor profession has evolved just as the journalist had to. Copy editors have to not only look over a story for style errors, but also find a way to highlight key words in an article so it will show up on search engine results. This could bring internet traffic to a newspaper’s online equivalent, increasing advertising money. However, if the articles on the site are poorly edited and show too many errors noticeable to an audience’s eye, that internet traffic will halt and not continue. The primary focus of a copy editor must be correcting errors in articles.

    Step states exactly the right questions the news industry needs to be asking itself. “How far can you cut editing without crippling credibility? How do you balance immediacy and accuracy?”

    There will always be a need for a second set of eyes to look over a piece of writing. As Alexander ended his article, “In the end, nothing can replace the experienced, fastidious copy editor.”

  15. Will Latta
    January 26, 2010 at 2:16 am

    Do we really need editors? Perhaps such a question is comparable to asking if we really need car insurance. Of course you can manage to drive a vehicle without it, but who has your back when you screw up?
    I believe the role of the copy editor has morphed from being a consistent job, solidified to particular people into being a fluid entity of a broader range of staff. No longer can the reporter turn in chicken scratch and disease-ridden work for the editor to decipher and sort out, she or he must not only be their own editor but also be on the constant lookout for mistakes in their peer’s work as well. This is true especially of the online journalism community where speedy publishing is more crucial and rough work will undoubtedly be posted. It is better that mistakes be spotted and corrected sooner rather than later, and it seems more desirable that a coworker spot the problem than if the readers or competitors do.
    The question of whether we actually need copy editors is answered, in my opinion, by what the particular publication in question wants to provide its audience. If the publication wants to be known for quality, reliability and accuracy, I find it crucial that it has an effective editing system. At least in the eye of the reader, mistakes on the small end of the spectrum reinforce the potential for mistakes on the large end of the spectrum. Meaning if spelling and grammatical errors are getting by, there must not be very vigorous editing and this could very easily allow much bigger informational errors to slide through the filter.
    As money becomes tighter and tighter and individual employees are asked to take on more and more roles of eliminated positions it will become tougher to keep a keen eye on every story. Unfortunately I think this means more stress for every one of the staff members and people will be required to check their own work more carefully. I think at the bare minimum, each writer should have at least one person read her or his work before it is published, even if that reader is merely a family member or friend. A second set of eyes can catch endlessly more than hurried authors likely will moments after completion.
    I worry about the increased use of editing software and flaw catching programs. I certainly take full advantage of Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar tool but the risk of dependence could actually lead to a decrease in writing quality. Only so many scenarios and potential linguistic constructions can be programmed into a computer and even those that are, will still suffer from limitations. If one were to assume the editing program would solve all problems I think the articles would wind up with an occasional illogical statement or grammatical error. The Human mind utilizes complexities that the latest technologies publicly known have not even scratched the surface of.

  16. Jackie Wiruth
    January 26, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Jackie Wiruth

    Are copy editors still needed? Yes, certainly. Should their roles be redefined? Yes. The traditional role of the copy editor was meant to go with the traditional newspaper. The newspaper has been reinvented and so now the role of the copy editor must be redefined. So much of news goes online so quickly that printing off a copy of a story to go to an editor is no longer practical. So what must be done to ensure quality even when stories are posted quickly online? The two articles we read list many options. Not everything can be left for the copy editors, who are becoming fewer and farther between as more jobs get cut.

  17. Jackie Wiruth
    January 26, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Sorry, I did not mean to submit that. Here is the rest of what I wanted to say.

    Reporters must learn to take on the role of copy editors themselves. They must learn to be able to quickly and efficiently check their own work for errors. Going back and relearning the things they were taught in college, the things we are learning in this class, would be a good place to start. The buddy system was another option given to us by both articles. In my opinion, it is a very efficient option. It can be easy to miss one’s own errors; it is much harder to miss other’s errors. It is a quick way to get work done. Another solution that could be used to catch any errors that slip through the first two options is for the actual copy editors to read and correct any errors after it has already been posted. This, of course, all deals with online articles. What of the articles that end up in the printed newspaper? Those could follow a similar process. A more skilled reporter who made fewer errors could have it buddy checked and sent to a holding folder where the first available editor could correct it faster because there were fewer errors in it already. The role of the copy editor is and will be a work in progress for some time to come, as their duties change with technology.

    Do these articles make me think differently about my own role as a future journalist? Yes. They show me that the things we are learning now are very important and more than applicable to real life. They are not things we should allow ourselves to forget upon graduation. Future reporters will have to be even more careful and meticulous in their editing as they will have to become their own editors, in many cases.

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