Becoming an editor while still a reporter

1 Feb

In 2011, the biggest newspaper error was mixing up Osama and Obama. Sure, there’s only one letter that is different in the names. Mixing up those letters, however, adds a whole new meaning to a headline.

Though a quickly written story could easily lead to this typo, it can be righted by another set of eyes looking at the same story – the editor’s eyes. Though journalists are expected to uphold standards of correct grammar and integrity, an editor’s job is to make sure the published story continues a publication’s credibility. How does one uphold a waning industry’s credibility? By making sure the information is accurate. Yet, with today’s many media roles, journalists and editors are becoming a two-for-one type of job, and professionals must learn to switch gears from writer to accuracy-measurer.

Fact checking is an important part of any story. At UF, blunders in facts can drop a paper 50 points. Needless to say, Gators quickly learn to make sure every detail in their stories are correct. According to Poynter, the sixth most common newspaper error is misspelled names. The simple solution that is offered? Just ask the source for the correct spelling. So simple and easy, yet apparently so commonly forgotten.

Furthermore, journalists strive to write stories that can be deemed good, at the very least. No writer wants to be told their story was neither enjoyable nor interesting. How does one ensure a story won’t be slammed by readers the next day? A simple checklist can help. While, at times, one may not have a fresh set of eyes to critically look at a story and catch any mishaps, leaving the computer for a bit, even if it’s just to refill a cup of coffee when on deadline, can refresh the eyes and make one able to review a story with a more critical eye.

And, when fortunate enough, one can hope they have an actual assigned editor to look over a story before publication. Ideally, an editor can speak about the above checklists in their sleep, so he or she goes through a story systematically and cautiously, catching any errors along the way. But editors have to keep credibility in mind as well, so they need to be willing to play devil’s advocate. This ensures a reporter can prove a story true, and it keeps the facts consistently checked.

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