Omaha World-Herald sports copy editor offers three keys to editing
By Matt Jensen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Editing involves learning new things every day and is a craft that takes continuous practice.
Just ask Zach Tegler, a sports copy editor at the Omaha World-Herald, who says he learns something new every day at his job.
Tegler graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2014 with a degree in journalism. While he was there, he won the William R. Reed Memorial award, an award for the best sports journalist in the Big Ten Conference. Tegler also earned a summer internship at The New York Times, one of the nation’s biggest newspapers.
After college, he had an internship at the Omaha World-Herald and was eventually hired on as a sports copy editor. He has now been working there for 2.5 years.
When asked about what the toughest or biggest things to know about editing, Tegler said there were three major things: headlines, fact-checking and timeliness. He learned to write headlines at The New York Times. Headlines are huge and they sell the story, Tegler said. Editors will constantly have to work at to get better.
“Really good headline writing, I think, is an art form that people don’t really recognize because they see it every day,” Tegler said. “To get a headline that is factual, that can capture a story and is interesting, it’s not an easy thing to do.”
A tip from Tegler is if you are a struggling with writing a headline it sometimes helps to just to get up, take a break and come back to it.
Fact-checking is another important skill. In today’s world, it seems that being first is often put above being accurate when it comes to reporting news, which is not right, Tegler said. This is a principle he strongly believes in.
“I’ve always thought that if you publish information that is incorrect, then what is the point of publishing it? If you publish information that is incorrect you’re really not necessary to be playing the role of an informer,” Tegler said “It’s not embarrassing; it’s irresponsible.”
Tegler says to help with fact-checking, it is important to know where to go to check the facts and which sources are trustworthy.
The last point he made was the importance of timeliness, especially when it comes to sports editing.
“The deadline is like a very holy thing,” he said. “Don’t miss the deadline.”
In sports editing, an editor may sometimes only get 15-20 minutes to look over a story before deadline because sporting events often occur in the evening, on a newspaper’s deadline. Being able to edit and look over stories quickly but accurately is critical.
“When you a get a story from a reporter at 11 o’clock at night you might have 5 or 10 minutes to do all that stuff, fact check it, fix any grammar issues, write a caption for a photo, write a headline, make sure it all makes sense, make sure it’s factual,” Tegler said. “That’s not a lot of time to do that.”
Tegler said if you’re running out of time it is better to write an accurate-boring-headline than an elaborate one and to always use spell check.
Repetition is the key improving as an editor. Just doing these things (headline writing, fact checking, timeliness) over and over again will help you become faster and better at editing stories, he said.
His last tip for anyone wanting to go into journalism is to immerse yourself in the job.
“Take what you’re doing seriously,” Tegler said, “and be interested in what you’re doing.”