Editing, Leadership, & Team-Building

Editing

When we are on a normal class and print publication schedule, reporters have four separate check-in and edit dates for each issue. I helped create our current edit requirements during my sophomore year and they are easily accessed in the Clypian Google Drive, which is shared with all the staff.

This four step edit process includes planning and several edit phases where reporters and editors make edits and suggestions for each piece.

With COVID-19 forcing classes online and into a quarter schedule, we decided to modify our editing process. Now reporters get story ideas approved, write and conduct interviews, and then turn in a draft that is as finished as possible.

Then an editor, sometimes myself and sometimes one of my page editors, will go through the draft, leaving comments and suggestions. The reporter will address the comments and suggestions. After this, I will do a final check of the story, making sure that there are no more issues in the content or grammar that need to be addressed. As long as there is nothing glaring that the reporter needs to fix, the story is then published.

Here is an example of this modified process with a story that my feature editor just wrote about looking back on the September wildfires, through the eyes of the Oregon Fire Marshal’s Office. She turned in her first draft to me:

From there I made comments about the content, mostly ignoring any grammatical changes, because she will be rewriting sections. When giving comments, I try add short suggestions throughout and one recap comment at the beginning of the article. Here are the comments I gave her, click on each image to enlarge and read them:

After that, she made changes based on my suggestions on the document and some that we discussed on a call, including if there was even a need for the information about South’s efforts to support the recovery. She turned in this article:

I proofread her draft and put it into WordPress. I created photo galleries within her story of photos I took of fire damage and rebuilding in different parts of Oregon. Then I published the article.

Another example of this editing process is with an article that one of my new staffers wrote about Comprehensive Distance Learning from the perspective of teachers. Here is the first draft he submitted:

This article was the first one that he had written for the Clypian and with distance learning splitting the class between several periods, he did not have as much coaching as we typically give our newcomers. As a result, there were stylistic issues and some cohesion issues, although the content was good, as were the quotes that he got. So, I sat down for 20-30 minutes to provide him with feedback. Here are the comments I gave him, click on each image to enlarge and read them:

He then took a couple days to make changes based on my comments. Through this time, we were in contact virtually over text, so that he had live support as well. First, he made adjustments to the content and flow so that it was more cohesive and easy to follow. After that he strengthened his lede to reflect the evolving situation. Finally, he worked to make stylistic changes, so that the piece was formatted in AP style and followed the Clypian Style Guide. Based on the comments and our virtual communication, he turned in this article:

The article needed only basic copy edits, so those were made. Then it was formatted in WordPress and published earlier this month.


Giving Feedback

The specific comments I provide to staffers during first edit varies widely depending on the author, but they mainly fall into six distinct categories: “good job” comments, structural edits, content edits, stylistic edits, developmental edits, and recap comments.

All the articles I edit receive a recap comment at the beginning of the page or the author will get a recap text/email from me. This comment will summarize the major themes throughout my suggestions, as well as highlight what went right in the draft. Positive reinforcement is an important tool and I make sure to highlight good things that are done no matter what state the draft is in. Here are some recent examples of recap comments that I have given:

Developmental suggestions relate to the further development of a concept or of the story as a whole. These include getting another interview, asking a source follow-up questions, or elaborating more on a major idea in the piece. Here are screenshots of developmental suggestions I have given:

Stylistic suggestions are made in the first draft when there is a repeated mistake related to the Clypian Style Guide or AP style. These mistakes usually relate to incorrect punctuation placement and incorrect quoting. Here are screenshots of stylistic comments that I have made in the past:

Content suggestions go hand-in-hand with developmental suggestions, overlapping a little. With content suggestions, I am working to improve the clarity and flow of an article. These suggestions often include rewriting a sentence or paragraph, as well as ideas editing things about the story’s content. Here are screenshots of recent content suggestions I have made:

Structural edit suggestions are made in relation to the structure of the article. These edits relate to the order of information or how the information is laid out on the page. They are made to improve the flow better or make the information more accessible to a wider audience. Common structural suggestions I give are to put specific information or quotes elsewhere in the article and to change the paragraphing. Here are screenshots of structural edits I have suggested:

Finally I make short positive comments and every story receives these. They include things like: “Good point, I didn’t think about it that way,” “Great quote! It really adds to the story,” or “Love this paragraph, super well written!”.


Editing My Own Work

As important as it is to edit your staff’s work, it is just as important to recognize that your own work needs editing too. Typically, I heavily edit all of my articles, before sending them to one or two of my editors to look over. Once they are done I do a final proofread. This process can change depending on the story, particularly if it is breaking news, but for the most part remains consistent.

For example, here is the process of editing my story about the history of Tim Davis, a member of Oregon’s alt-right. The article is in the reporting section and is mentioned on several pages, as it is one of the stories I am most proud of, but it also underwent extensive edits, so I am including that process here. After much preparation, which is detailed in the “Setting An Example” subsection later on this page, I wrote my first draft of the article.

The first draft was clunky. I did not love how the story was laid out and the order information was presented in. It included details that bogged down the reader and were not very important to the story’s development. So, I rewrote the story, cutting sections, rewording paragraphs, and completely reorganizing the information. This document shows all of the major edits made, with most (but not all) of ones in green being made first and then the ones in gray. Everything that is crossed out was deleted, reworked, and added somewhere else in the article, or it was taken out entirely. The few words in black have not been changed from original.

From there, the article was looked over by one of my editors and I re-read it several more times, making minor changes. It was then published and the final version can be read in the Reporting & Writing section.


Leading the Editorial Team

Since becoming an editor, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I have strived to be a leader within our editorial board, contributing to conversations and helping to make difficult content, editing, and publication decisions. That year, the Editor-in-Chief at the time and I established the practice of an editorial team meeting every Monday, which was continued until COVID hit.

I have also lead the editorial board in the writing and publication editorials, even before becoming Editor-in-Chief. One of these was an endorsement in the Gubernatorial race in 2018. All the members of the board who chose to vote, casted a vote for Kate Brown. Following the vote, two other editors and I worked to compile research, after which I drafted a version of the article and they edited.

The endorsement was even recognized by the Governor herself, who reposted it from her campaign account.


Creating Resources

During my sophomore year, I led an effort with a couple of other editors to create a Google Drive for the Clypian staff. This consolidated all of our resources and every article in the same place, streamlining the editing process. The digital re-organization provided especially useful once the class moved online because of COVID-19, as we are no longer seeing each other 3 days a week in person.

Every quarter, one of my editors or I creates a folder for reporters to put their work into. Every previous story is archived in the google drive to reference and there is a folder full of resources I have compiled with my editors. These resources include our edit requirements, edit dates when we are on a regular issue schedule, as well as, contact information for every member of the staff. Last year, I tasked my editors with creating resources to help new and returning reporters.

With this project, I lead my editorial staff in a discussion about giving interviews. We then created a document with tips and information, which is in the our Google Drive for everyone to access, and presenting about it to new reporters.

This past fall, I led my social media team in the creation of a graphics template. This included helping them pick fonts that fit the Clypian style, as well as a color theme. Now all the graphics created for our social media follow this new theme.


Guiding Story Selection

When school was in session normally, I would lead storyboard each month with my one or more of my editors. We would task reporters and editors with finding five or more potential stories, which they would bring to storyboard to discuss. Stories that the Clypian staff deemed interesting or important were written on a whiteboard and then everyone chose which articles they wanted to work on for that month.

Now that school is online I work independently with all members of my staff to brainstorm story ideas and determine what they want to write about. I encourage them to come up with story ideas, help them brainstorm, and help them refine their ideas. It has been more challenging to help my staff solely online, so I try to make myself available to check in over Zoom, email, or text.

I also have a running document in the Google Drive with article ideas for people to add to, reference, or use. I try to support my staff in any way possible as they figure out what they want to cover.


Setting An Example

I believe that one of the most important leadership qualities is leading by example. I work to write stories, cover events, and present myself in a way that reflects well on journalism as a whole. As Editor-in-Chief, your staff looks up to you. So, it is of the upmost importance that one conducts themselves with integrity and strives to be the best representative of student journalism possible.

I worked to set an example this summer, by writing hard-hitting stories, while also working to maintain a high standard of journalism. I fact-checked, talked many different sources, went to events, and watched hours of video evidence, so that I could publish accurate and relevant content. I wanted to show my staff and other student journalists, that they can publish articles that are timely and impactful, even as students.

It was this desire to set a high standard for student journalism, represent my publication well, and help the community that drove my coverage of the racial justice protests this summer. I worked to set a standard for our longer exposés when I wrote an article about the violent journey of a member of Oregon’s alt-right to the U.S. Capitol for the January 6 insurrection. For that article, I watched over an hour of video footage, combed through photos and articles, and talked to several people, including the DA’s office and Oregon State Police to corroborate information, as well as, people who had been tracking Oregon’s alt-right.

As well as covering long term stories, I worked to create a standard for timely news stories too. Before predictable major events, I worked to put together teams or assign single editors to cover it so that news could be released in a timely manner. When stories were breaking, I put together teams and also tried to set the example that sometimes when news is released, one has to put in extra, unplanned time.

When an hours long standoff began following the non-fatal shooting of a local police officer, I rushed to the scene with my camera. I texted my content editor and together we worked on an article. I sent her information about what was happening and she typed it into a story, while I helped edit and write from Google Docs on my phone. I took photos, which I uploaded and processed as soon as the standoff resolved.

When I couldn’t get multiple people to work on breaking news, I tried to do it myself, again setting an example for future editors. For example, when racial justice protests in Salem turned violent and the police department used tear gas within city limits for the first time ever, I reported on that myself. As the conflict broke out late at night I wasn’t able to find anyone to help me, so, I worked on the article while monitoring live-streams and Twitter feeds. My reporting that night was one of the only articles about what happened and it was widely praised as the most accurate.

Another way I work to set an example is by expanding our multimedia work. When I became Editor-in-Chief, I encouraged my editors and staff to include lots of photos with their articles whenever possible. If the event they were covering benefited from videos posted on Twitter, I encouraged them to take those too. I did the same, particularly with my protest coverage.

I worked to change our approach to story writing from articles, with photos as an afterthought, to a truly multimedia approach. I recognize that photos and videos tell a unique story and thus can play an important role in conveying the article’s message and information. We have not yet worked to include video packages regularly in articles, however, video is often incorporated in our holistic coverage of events, particularly on social media.

For example, on the second night of Salem’s racial justice protests, I published an article with photos embedded, a separate photo gallery, and tweeted videos from the night as it unfolded, as shown below.


Team-Building

It isn’t all serious in the Clypian newsroom, as we recognize that levity can be one of the best ways to build a team. So, at the beginning of every semester we do a series of ice breaker games and fun activities to build rapport. Every month, after an issue was published and distributed, we would have a party. This party was a way to celebrate what we had accomplished and visit together as a class. We played games, ate food, and talked, while electronics were banned for the day.

The party after distribution was one of my favorite Clypian traditions and brought us closer as a staff. So, I hope to see it return when students get back in classrooms.


%d bloggers like this: