10 ways to keep your wits on deadline

By · Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Now, more than ever, editors must remain unflappable in their roles as gatekeeper, cool head and last defense — sometimes the only defense — against error and misstep.

Editors are asked to do more, to know more and to juggle more, and often they have less time to do it. Newcomers and veterans alike — all editors — need a mindset to help them handle deadlines.

Here are 10 ways to keep your wits — and your credibility:

  1. Be transparent. Digital audiences are now spectators to a real-time news process that once was invisible. They need your help to understand what they are seeing.
  2. Take care with the “Post” button. Before you publish, take that extra few seconds to ask, “Is everything right?” You can’t take it back, so take special care.
  3. Breathe. Editors face second-by-second deadlines. The stress can be overwhelming. But it can be exhilarating if you make room for oxygen.
  4. Know the competition. Keep up with it and get ahead of it. But don’t abandon your principles and good instincts. There is no honor in being the first one to have it wrong.
  5. Talk with others. A quick exchange can do wonders for your news judgment. Talk with others when you can because these discussions will help you at other times — on the late and very early shifts or overnight — when you might be the only one in the room.
  6. Listen to your audience. People who consume the news you publish can be great sources of up-to-the-minute and on-the-scene information for breaking news stories. They can provide valuable tips. Listen, and then use your best judgment before publishing.
  7. Be accurate. Publish what you know. Hold back until you are confident about what you know.
  8. Keep it simple. Don’t try to do too much. Approach every story incrementally — in sentence structure, story concept and word flow.
  9. Keep organized lists. Don’t have too much faith in your multitasking skills. There is a lot to keep track of, and making a list can help.
  10. Be disciplined. Remember this saying: “When those around you are losing their heads, keep yours.”

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

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