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Work from a checklist: Video | Think Like an Editor Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Work from a checklist: Video

By · Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

“You can check that off the list.”

We say that all the time. Intuitively, we recognize that making a list, and following it, ensures that the job gets done. That it is complete — and done right.

But when it comes to journalism, we are often suspicious of anything that sounds like a “formula.” It challenges our feeling that our work is creative, and that every piece evolves in its own way. I have plenty of empathy for that, but also for the opposite. When you don’t have a checklist, things can be forgotten, skipped, or left out. The result: Time lost, work wasted. People irritated.

I make the case in our video that checklists are liberating, not limiting, because they free you up to work with confidence on the creative side, knowing the basics are covered. Checklists also are a hedge against miscommunication; if reporter-editor teams are working from the same checklists, their expectations match. We often talk about a shared language and shared vision, where team members work in harmony. Checklists are the foundations on which these are built.

Eventually, as it is with all good habits, working from a checklist becomes second nature. You do it naturally, intuitively.

I noted in the video that I’ve been using a mental checklist to improve my golf swing. Sadly, this has not happened yet. But I have faith in checklists, and that eventually I will hit a straight ball more often than not!

You can download our video about trying checklists to your iPod or other portable device. Or, you can view it — and others in the archive — via our YouTube playlist, right off the Web, or in the player on our home page.

Steve Davis

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