Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, Newhouse School, Syracuse University. Editing for print and digital, new media journalism.

Not a journalist? You still have power

By · Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Curiosity is that powerful trait that drives journalists. It can drive you — the audience — too.

Here’s how.

Now recognize that even though you might not be a journalist, you have the ability to turn your curiosity into a story and the power to make a good story better. You are so lucky.

That’s because today, you can reach journalists in all ways. You can communicate via social media of all kinds. You can share your curiosity in such a straightforward manner that your curiosity can be transformed into stories. Your stories.

Journalists are already sharing the power. They welcome your participation. They are waiting to hear from you.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Check. Recheck. Check again.

By · Friday, November 8th, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

One small change can make a big difference. As journalists, we want the difference to be a positive one. That’s why everyone needs an editor.

The following examples of published errors are worth repeating. The mistakes range from transposed numbers to wrong information from a source.

That’s how:

That’s how:

Checking facts when we write is routine.

Checking changes that we make to another person’s writing is a must.

We all need an editor.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Don’t blink! This reminder is a short one

By · Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Two words that commonly get misused because they get misspelled are “your” and “you’re.” Before you get scared off by this grammar reminder, read this short post to see how simple it is to keep these words in their proper places.

YOUR means “something that belongs to you.” Memory aid: We wiped our feet on your rug. Reasoning: “Our” is contained in the word “your” — neither takes an apostrophe.

YOU’RE means “you are.” Memory aid: Thank you for the takeout food. You’re welcome. Reasoning: In this aid about takeout food, we had to “take out” the “a” in “you are welcome” and replace it with an apostrophe to form the correct choice — “you’re.”

See? Short and simple.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Right your wrongs with transparency

By · Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 · Comments Off on Right your wrongs with transparency

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Mistakes happen. An important thing to remember as journalists is that when errors occur, we must be transparent with our audience. The same is true when we update information in an already published story.

There is a difference between correcting something that is outright wrong and updating a story as new information is obtained. In either case, without transparency, the audience could think information is wrong when it is not, or they could spread misinformation, thinking it is correct.

We offer some models that could be helpful.

Information is in error. Here are two examples of transparency online in real time when information is in error.

  1. We reported that a man was rescued from his overturned boat on the Oneida River. He was rescued from the Seneca River.
  2. Concert tickets go on sale tomorrow at 9 a.m., not this morning, as we reported.

Information has been updated. Here are two examples of transparency online in real time to explain exactly what changed when stories were updated.

  1. Authorities now say three people, not four, died in the fire.
  2. The principal now says elementary students will not be dismissed this morning because of the water-main break. They are being sent by bus to the middle school for the rest of the day.

When information needs to be corrected or updated, follow a process and be transparent — no matter how often you must do it. Feel confident that you are doing the right thing.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Busted! How to deal with the unexpected

By · Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 · Comments Off on Busted! How to deal with the unexpected

not teaching,
still THINKING …

This “F” goes to a busted water heater.

It is not so much that this much-needed appliance broke — or even that it leaked water onto the basement floor at an alarmingly steady rate. This broken water heater earns an “F” because of how it totally upended the normal routine of a Sunday evening.

Kind of reminds us, in retrospect, of how breaking news does exactly that same thing to journalists.

Journalists can be burned by breaking news because it tends to happen when they are planning something else. But they can — and do — overcome the challenge when they have a plan in place to deal with it. Plans vary depending on the news organization, size of staff, type of breaking news.

Yet despite any differences in plans, one thing is universal: A positive attitude helps.

Just as things will always break, we will always experience breaking news. Don’t let the unexpected become a frustrating interruption. Instead, put all your energy and effort into dealing with it.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Choose lively language with these 3 tips

By · Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 · Comments Off on Choose lively language with these 3 tips

not teaching,
still THINKING …

(Image via teamsupport.com)

Lively language. The way we put words together makes a difference in how our message is received. One way to achieve lively language is to choose strong verbs. Substitute a strong verb for a weak one. Choose verbs that show action. Avoid “there is” and “there are.”

Here are some simple tips:

Make it a priority to achieve lively language. Your message depends on it.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)