I’ll Show You the Records

News content was a bit slow Tuesday, so much of my time was spent editing “Show Me the Records” pieces in advance.

What are “Show Me the Records” pieces? Each week, advanced reporting (or sometimes general reporting) students highlight a different public record that could be useful to residents of mid-Missouri. The pieces are meant to be short and straightforward.

In some of them, the wording didn’t make the content of the records clear, so I visited the websites where those records can be found and did some sleuthing to see how I could make the content more clear for the reader.

I spent all of my Thursday shift on the ICE (interactive copy editing) desk. I read mostly obituaries and sports stories.

The story I spent the most time on this week was a good reminder of how important it is to check the little details: names and numbers.

The general assignment story stated the total number of U.S. locations of a business and linked to the locations page of the company’s website. I visited that page and counted (yes, manually counted) the number of locations. Each time, I came up with the same number — a number that was four more than the number listed in the story.

I called the reporter, who got the number from an information sheet that did not incorporate the newest locations. We agreed using the larger number would be more accurate.

Later that night, I was editing a caption for that story and noticed the general manager’s name was spelled differently there than it was spelled in the story. We called the reporter and talked with the photographer, and both said they had double-checked the spelling with the source. We ended up calling the business to see which one was correct; an employee said the photographer’s spelling was.

Details are easy to miss, and they take a lot of time to double-check. But honestly, time such as that hour I spent one time (not at the Missourian) double-checking 70 names and addresses to end up correcting two of them was well-spent — it added to the accuracy of the story, therefore helping preserve the publication’s credibility. And that’s (a lot of) what we’re all about here at the desk, right?

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