Same Story, Different Players

As part of my copy editing class this semester, we’re asked to write weekly reflections about our work on the Columbia Missourian’s interactive copy editing and print desks. I’ve decided also to post those here.

My first week at the Columbia Missourian was an adjustment from this summer, for sure.

I have to learn the Missourian’s stylebook and unlearn the Orange County Register’s. I’m reading about Boonville and Columbia instead of Buena Park and Corona Del Mar. And although there are still plenty of City Council meetings, council members have different names, and issues such as fire pits on beaches wouldn’t be an issue here.

But working at any copy desk provides opportunity for valuable experiences and lessons.

An experience Tuesday afternoon served as a good reminder to be persistent and patient. I opened a story on the interactive copy editing desk that I thought might take 30 minutes — an hour and a half later, I was still working on it. In addition to having typical grammatical and style errors, the story had a couple of factual holes and proper noun discrepancies.

The writer’s cellphone was off, and the supervising editor had already left. But one of the news editors gave a great suggestion: Why not email the writer, too?

Sure enough, the writer was big on email and came in later that night after my shift ended. My TA said most of the questions I had were answered, which was a relief to hear.

Thursday’s experience was very much like this summer’s, as I worked on the print desk. However, the night was more chaotic than usual — stories came in later, leaving us less time to think of clever headlines and improve the quality of the print product.

Earlier in the night, I found a handful of errors in stories and photo packages that had already been through copy editing, and I regret not having much time to closely examine the stories that came in later that night. We were running behind, and in order to make the print deadline, we had to send the last few stories through after writing its headline.

Next time I’m on the print desk, which I think will be the week after this one, I want to continue to work on writing catchy print headlines and find a balance between time and careful editing. I look forward to seeing how much those two aspects will improve this semester.

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