Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Wash, rinse, don’t repeat

By · Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

not teaching,
still THINKING …

An embarrassingly number of times, the following has happened to me: Go to washing machine, set all of the dials, start water, open lid — only to find not an empty washer, but instead a washer full of clean clothes, already washed, rinsed and spun. And now those clothes are being showered with water.

The result when the load is washed again?

The reason this happens?

All it would take to prevent this scene:

These very solutions also apply well to editing for accuracy, which would avoid embarrassing errors getting published. Finding errors is an editor’s job by definition — and needs to be everyone’s job by necessity.

Consider the following published material — mistakes such as transposed letters and numbers, wrong information, misspelled names — which are examples in our “Think Like an Editor” book:

We encourage one extra look to possibly spot that something is wrong; one more call to verify; an extra second it takes to take care with the publish button.

It all starts with the basics, and here are 10 quick ways to ensure accuracy before publishing material:

  1. Check names
  2. Check addresses and phone numbers
  3. Do the math
  4. Check dates
  5. Check numbers in the lead (to ensure they match the rest of the story)
  6. Use your resources
  7. Check previous stories
  8. Use common sense
  9. Check your own work
  10. Ask the reporter (when in doubt about accuracy of any kind)

No one likes to make a mistake. No one likes to miss a mistake. And there’s a big difference between a mistake happening in the privacy of your laundry room and one that is out there for all to see.

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

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