Copy Desk, Week 3

I sure spent a lot of time on the copy desk this past week.

I picked up a Labor Day afternoon/evening shift (in exchange, I got a shift in October picked up so I can go home and cheer on the Tigers at Sanford Stadium!), which turned out to be fairly calm. I worked on the print desk, and we left before 11 p.m.

The copy that night was fairly clean, too. The biggest error I remember was in an AP story about the 50th anniversary of lava lamps, in which the inventor’s name, among other things, was spelled incorrectly. Luckily, he’s prominent enough that even the Encyclopedia Britannica had an entry about him.

I returned to the desk the next day for my usual 3-hour shift. The most memorable story was a general assignment one. First, there was a name discrepancy of a farmers market — the market referred to itself by two different names on its website. The reporter tried to get in touch with the person from the farmers marker but was unable to, so we left it the way it originally was.

The second question was regarding the name of a highway in St. Louis. The Missourian stylebook has specific rules about how to refer to different highways, and the way this one was listed (the way natives refer to it) didn’t fit any of them. We did some investigating and discovered it wasn’t an interstate but spanned multiple states — in Missourian stylebook terms, a U.S. Route.

Thursday’s shift was longer than the others; I was on the print desk and left at about midnight.

Before I went to the print desk, though, I spent a very long time on a very short story. Some of the content of the story was unclear, so I talked with the reporter a few times, who was very good about answering my questions. We ended up rearranging the story, giving it a more informative and newsworthy lead and putting the information in a more logical order for the reader.

On the print desk, we had some difficulty coming up with headlines for a few stories because they contained lots of descriptions but didn’t have a clear direction or immediate news value. A combination of that and late content led to our late night.

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