Editors must re-energize at the end

By · Saturday, March 6th, 2010

One of my editing courses this semester is collaborating with a reporting course to produce a new community newspaper, The Stand.

The Stand is a monthly newspaper that serves Syracuse’s South Side, an underrepresented community that is a close neighbor to Syracuse University.

Editors already put out the inaugural edition, which they started and completed within the first two weeks of the semester. They did impressive work in a short time. Now they are working on the next issue. They are most vulnerable at this point.

Why? Because they are at risk of losing their energy, momentum and enthusiasm for this project. They have met with and communicated with the reporters on many stories. Reporters and editors have fielded many questions from the reporting professor and from me. The reporting phase for the coming issue is ending, and production will begin Monday. That phase entails its own set of questions and direction.

At the same time, editors are thinking ahead to the next issue because reporters are ready to start on those stories. When will it end? It won’t.

Editors must re-energize at the very point when they naturally would like to step back and admire their accomplishments. Take a break. Do something else. But the cycle — for print or for the Web — does not allow that, and it is a reality of the journalism profession.

That’s why editors must stay vigilant. Every story must get that final, comprehensive read when an editor steps back — not to admire — but to ensure that it is ready to go. That it follows the basic story structure; that it has a nut graph; that its focus answers the question, “What’s the story?”; that its sourcing is sound; that facts are substantiated; that there are no hidden problems.

In “Think Like an Editor,” three strategies offer guidance for editors to do this:

Editors in the course are focusing right now on the print edition. But the accompanying Web site is calling, too.

Emilie Davis

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