A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work a shift at the Missourian copy desk for my news editing class. Prior to the shift, I was a little nervous and didn’t know quite what to expect. After spending the semester learning the fundamentals of news editing and brushing up on AP style, I’m much more confident in my ability to edit a story. However, as I took my seat at the copy desk, I was surprisingly intimidated and feared that my skills were not up par. What if I missed a blatant AP style error? What if my editing deleted essential information or resulted in an accidental change of meaning? Is the reporter going to come after me with a pitchfork?
After I was handed my first story to edit, my anxiety finally began to subside, and I regained confidence in my abilities. It was essentially the same routine I had been practicing all semester—only this time, it was real. As I began to carefully edit my first story, I was told to look for common AP style errors, clarify sentences and modify the headline for SEO if needed. Fortunately, I was very confortable with all of these tasks, and completed my first edit in a little less than 30 minutes. It took a lot longer than most, but I wanted to be sure that I didn’t miss anything before sending it to Rim Fast.
After completion, I reflected on what I feel is the most important lesson I’ve learned in this class. Editors are the unsung heroes of the newsroom; however, their work is absolutely essential to the profession. Although I have a lot of confidence in Missourian reporters and assistant copy editors, they can easily make mistakes, especially if the reporter is writing on deadline and the assistant copy editor is flooded with a multitude of stories to review.
As a copy editor, I’m essentially the last line of defense. As a result, I feel there is a huge weight on my shoulders to make sure the story is 100 percent accurate and error-free before it’s published. Even when the newsroom is fast paced, I believe copy editors should not get caught up in the frantic atmosphere because that is when the majority of mistakes will be made. Sure, I might catch the occasional missing comma or misplaced modifier during a quick skim, but it’s very unlikely that I will have time to restructure sentences and make an article easier to understand for readers. If I’m not going to take the time to read through a story, then I believe that I’m a disservice to not only my newspaper’s readers, but to my employer as well. As an editor, I have a responsibility to protect the integrity of my newspaper, and that can be easily damaged with frequent errors and misinformation.