The Bigger Picture

Nothing too exciting happened during Tuesday’s copy desk shift. I made a conscious effort to consider the “bigger picture,” in continuing with the theme of last week’s post, and spent a lot of time thinking of how I could further improve headlines, even if they were OK to begin with.

For example, using the thought process I discussed last week (What is this about that makes this different than other stories and that would make readers want to read more about it?), I modified a headline about a football player speaking about his injuries. The revised version gave readers a teaser about what sped up his recovery, making it more about the content of the speech than the event he spoke at.

I got to do some “big-picture” editing Thursday while working on a story about a Department of Public Works proposal. Much of the story compared the current and proposed procedures regarding city traffic, so it was crucial to make sure which procedures were enacted and which would be proposed was very, very clear to readers.

I also thought the lede was a bit misleading, so the reporter and I discussed that. Until the final graf of the story, I thought this proposal had already been proposed to City Council — turns out the proposal will be brought to the council in November. We altered the verbs in the lede to make that clear from the beginning.

I built my first homepage Thursday night, which entailed altering headlines and excerpts to make sure they fit well and attracted readers’ attention. But just because a headline and excerpt has gone through multiple levels of copy editing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t examine their content, as I was reminded Thursday night.

The excerpt of the homepage’s centerpiece stated a governmental body as the “Board of Alderman.” I called the reporter, a friend of mine, to see if there was any reason “alderman” was singular instead of plural. He didn’t have one, so after looking at several external resources (some being conflicting) to determine how others referred to the board, we changed it to “aldermen” (following “board of directors,” “board of trustees,” etc.). I also made sure to go back and change it throughout the story and the photo captions.

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