Keeping the Writer’s Voice: Video

By · Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The writer’s voice is a personal possession that reporters nurture and protect. Editors understand that; they strive to keep a writer’s voice when editing, rewriting or tweaking a reporter’s story.

So if the writer’s voice is important to reporters and editors alike, why does the mere mention of the concept often evoke strong emotions from everyone? Probably because keeping a writer’s voice is not so easy to do, especially on deadline, especially when an editor is working solo, especially when a story happens to need a good deal of reworking or reorganization. Deadline pressure and people pressure all work against the voice.

But there is hope.

The more reporters and editors work together on smaller staffs and in smaller newsrooms, and the more editors work as old-time rewrite editors under the new, multijob model, the closer the role of an editor comes to the role of a reporter. Today, editors write more, particularly for the Web — headlines, rails, promos, refers, for example. With breaking news, they might take the facts from a reporter, write the story and publish it. Editors blog, too. If they never were reporters before, they now probably know better what it’s like to have a personal voice.

A good practice when dealing with copy: Have respect for the words and the wordsmith. Remember, too, that having a brief conversation about a story in the early stages of reporting and writing helps everyone. It establishes the answer to the all-important question, “What’s the story?” and helps to ensure that the reporter and editor have a shared vision for the story. Is there time for that? Not always. But any discussion, however brief, leads to understanding. That means there’s a better chance of keeping the writer’s voice by communicating clearly and openly.

To not protect the writer’s voice would be like stealing someone’s prized possession.

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