Words Are Black and White

I knew Thursday’s Faculty Council meeting would be lengthy, but I didn’t know how much longer the editing process would be.

Not that Faculty Council didn’t already have anything newsworthy to discuss — non-tenure-track voting, the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute and Reading Day are all issues that affect MU and its academic community — but the report released about the University of Missouri Press took the cake in terms of importance.

The entire UM Press issue is a very gray area. As I conducted background research, I noticed inconsistencies and updates in stories we had run as “what was accurate” changed. Different people had different views and ideas about what happened.

The report the council committee produced revealed the decision-making process behind the closing — and, later, reopening — of the press, though with a fair amount of jargon. And even though it shed a lot of light onto the situation, some gray areas still remain.

After that two-and-a-half-hour meeting, a fellow education reporter and I headed back to the newsroom to write the story, which proved to be more difficult than we thought.

When examining the report, we sometimes had different interpretations of what the report meant in plain English. As usual, I fixated on some details for longer than I should have. We didn’t quite know how to structure the story at first. Most importantly, though, we had to make sure the wording was perfect — these matters might be gray, but words are printed in black-and-white.

After hours of editing with our assistant city editor, we then edited with our beat editor for about an hour and a half on speakerphone before the story was set to print. Much clarification was needed, some arguing occurred and frustration was abundant, but any conflict wasn’t personal. We agreed afterward that we had the same goal in mind: We wanted the story to be entirely accurate and clearly summarize what this report stated.

I got back to my apartment at 11:30 p.m., about eight hours after that meeting first began, but that story required that long editing session to get it right, and that was OK. I’m just glad everyone else was on the same boat in terms of care for that story and that it paid off — we simplified the report while keeping it accurate.

It was a good learning experience, too. I just hope that the next lengthy learning experience doesn’t occur the night before a midterm.

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