Editors and reporters: How to be a team and win

7 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

When you are a copy editor, as you edit, it is important to be sensitive to the time and effort the reporter put into his or her work.

According to Jenny Fucilla, freelance writers, and I am sure most reporters, have written a story they want published exactly the way they turn it in; word for word. Instead, what usually happens in the real world outside of writer fantasies is that the copy is changed to maintain a certain tone and uniformity with the publication.

Editors have their own tastes. This means they may change wording, or because of space limitations, cut parts of the manuscript. Minor changes are usually left to the editor’s discretion. Other, more significant changes, however, should be discussed with the writer.

It is important for an editor to remember that his or her name is not on the byline and that they have a responsibility to the writer. It is also important for the editor to be sure that corrections made are really clarifying or correcting the story and not introducing error into the manuscript.

Craig Silverman said editors may catch reporter’s many errors, but sometimes, they introduce errors.


One time, the Charlotte Observer wrote that instead of a “herniated disc,” the NBA player had a “herniated dick.” This happened while the editor was trying to correct the original to “herniated disk.”

Stephen Rynkiewicz said there are marked differences in how reporters and editors think. He said reporters are from Mars, and editors are from Uranus.

“Give me a job as a reporter and I’ll complain about where my work appears in the paper or headlines that miss the point. Put me at an editing desk and I’ll find statements that raise far more questions than they answer,” he said.

Though both are different, it is crucial that the reporter and editor collaborate. According to a piece written in the University of Nebraska Journalism and Mass Communications Faculty Journal by Will Norton Jr., John W. Windhauser and Allyn Boone, both the reporter and editor hold the role of decision makers of what is deemed as “newsworthy.” Of course, the noted difference being that the editor ultimately decides what gets published.

New York Times Bestselling Author Shirley Jump has a list of ways to get along with your editor. An editor can be a mentor for a reporter. The reporter can use his or her relationship with the editor to know what he or she is doing correctly. This relationship can also serve to show what can be improved in the future.

The key to resolving this historic conflict is to try to understand each other’s jobs. Some general guidelines by Nick Juliano are that the editor should speak to the reporter about “potential libel, numbers that don’t work, facts that don’t check out, quotes that are missing words, sentences that don’t make sense, holes in the story and names that are misspelled.” The editor should do this in a respectful way.

“Copy editors and reporters do not get along because they do not understand each other’s jobs,” said Dick Hughes, editorial page editor for the Statesman Journal.

“Reporters see copy editors as people who just sit there and hack stories. Copy editors see reporters as people who are always late and don’t give them enough time to write good headlines,” Hughes said.

Jenny Fucilla said, “In a word, the editor should put himself in the writer’s place; he should make only such changes as the writer would make himself if he had the editor’s experience.”

It is also important for the reporter to know that it is a copy editor’s job to scrutinize, tear apart and modify using good judgment.

Instead of seeing each other as adversaries, the reporter and editor should, as Juliano said, remember the reader. They should remember that their ultimate purpose is to, together, create an excellent publication.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: