Columns / Discourse / February 6, 2020

Editor’s Notebook: The ins and outs of editing

So, you have submitted an article to TKS. You talked to the editors to get the assignment, checked the story slip, interviewed sources, wrote it all out and read it through yourself. It’s 3 p.m. on Monday and you just sent it in two hours early. Congrats, and thank you. But what now?

First, the section editors will take a look at it. They are supposed to try to catch everything from big picture problems like editorializing, to minor AP details like cities that don’t need states with them.

There are two goals here: making the piece better – since all of our names will be attached to it – and helping you (and the editors) learn. TKS is a college paper; it is meant to be a learning experience for all of us. But as a newspaper, we also want to put out good work. Being careful and deliberate about editing is a part of that.

So yes, the editors are going to change what you wrote. Columns we edit pretty much just for AP style and Soleil is good about reaching out to people before making any wording changes, but we won’t change ideas. Letters to the editor we only edit for AP style.

Articles in News, Mosaic and Sports we edit more. Journalistic style is hard and very different than academic writing. Short paragraphs are a big change, and hard to do when you are used to essays for class. Quotes need a certain format and adverbs almost always have to go.

Overall, it really helps to have a second set of eyes on a story. Assumptions and conclusions that were clear to the writer might not be clear to another reader. Editing isn’t about changing your words, it’s about making TKS easier for people to read.

Please don’t take it as us acting like we know everything and are undermining you, either. We edit each other’s work too. Soleil is great for this – I’m somewhat sorry I make her read my early drafts of my columns. It is about making the piece stronger, not about judging anyone’s writing.

Once they are done, the section editors put the piece in a shared folder. There, the copy editors take over. I often serve as one of the copy editors, thanks to the budget cuts. We read the stories, checking more for AP style and clarity but also considering the larger issues such as potential other sources or big questions the story leaves unanswered.

Two copy editors read each piece, and then it gets put onto the page by one of the section editors. Then it gets a headline, a subhead and photos/graphics. That’s a whole other process that’s even more boring than this one, so we’ll skip all that.

Once they’re done, the section editors print out a copy of the page. It goes through two copy editors and then I look at it and then the section editors make corrections. I sometimes catch a couple more things when I make PDFs to send to the printers.

So, in total, at least four different editors see your story before it gets put on the page and three people read it after. So no, we shouldn’t make mistakes.

But we do. We want to know when we do, too. We generally don’t run corrections for minor style or grammar errors but if it’s a name or something bigger, we will. And we want you to tell us if you catch any mistakes, so we know to watch out for them more in the future.

If it is a big correction, please contact the writer, section editor or me. Leading the staff to make as few mistakes as possible is my job, and I need to know about big ones. That also keeps me in the loop so I can follow up with you. I am always happy to meet with you too, to address your concerns and come up with solutions in person.

If you are ever in doubt on who to contact, tks@knox.edu goes to whoever is editor-in-chief. If you know anyone on staff too (which you probably do, Knox is only so big after all), you can ask them or have them forward your concern to the appropriate person.

Connor Wood, Editor-in-Chief
Connor Wood is a senior with a double major in English Literature and Environmental Studies. He started as a volunteer writer and then staff writer his freshman year and was a news editor his sophomore and junior years. He has also worked as a communications intern for the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and as an intern with Unified News Group, both in the Madison, WI, suburbs.

Tags:  editing journalism student journalism submissions The Knox Student

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