PROFESSIONAL LIFE > WHAT COPY EDITORS DO

Journalism and poetry go back a long way together. Some of our greatest poets began their writing career - or supplemented their income - as journalists. Carl Sandburg was a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, among other papers; Walt Whitman was a printer before becoming an editor at several newspapers; and Dylan Thomas worked as a freelance reporter for several years after being fired from the South Wales Evening Post.

Today, many journalists write poetry on the side. And Don Munday, a copy editor at The Kansas City Star, gets his published every Monday.

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As Don Munday notes, copy editors write poetry every day they write headlines: They try to find just the right word in just the right space to send just the right message. Terry Godbey, a copy editor at the Orlando Sentinel, has turned her interest in poetry into a second career.

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Matt Smith, a copy editor at the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, has a regular column on the Sunday op-ed page. Often, its a humor column - now that the solar system has been downsized, he had a few thoughts on what else could be cut down to size while other columns examine local and state issues. Why does he do it? Well, well let him explain.

DOWNLOADS: Dude, where's my solar system? (PDF) Beer vs. the iPod (PDF) How hot is it? (PDF) Computer trouble hotline (PDF) Great Lakes, great time, great waste (PDF) Playing round-robin in Lansing (PDF)

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Matt Sober, a copy editor at the Valley News Dispatch in Pennsylvania, started his column at the suggestion of the paper's features editor, who had to keep "nudging" Sober to agree to the idea. Luckily, the nudging worked: Sober's columns won a Golden Quill from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania in 2006.

DOWNLOADS: It'll make your heart melt Read 'em and weep Sounds like the wrong address Yet another tempting Apple

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Paul Walsh, a Minneapolis Star Tribune copy editor, thought that the details in the wire photo's caption were a little thin. So he went to work getting more information - and by the time he was done, his paper not only had a complete caption, but quite possibly the only accurate one in the country. This "If you ran the newspaper" column, which appeared on Page 25A of the Star Tribune on Feb. 17, 2002, was written by Lou Gelfand, who at the time was the paper's reader representative. Paul Walsh is now an assigning editor.

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Knowledge of how the world works is the special province of copy editors, and the work that they do - putting a story "in printable form with its values disclosed and brought within the understanding of the reader," as Adolph Ochs once said - protects a news organization's relationship with its audience. Hear more of what Nieman Curator Bob Giles had to say and download the full text of his speech. It's one of nine sessions at Editing the Future.

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Editors control "the most important information instruments in the history of humankind." And copy editors "aim for accuracy. We aim for clarity. We aim for balance - and, when we can get it, elegance of expression." Watch as John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center, and John McIntyre, the Baltimore Sun's assistant managing editor/copy desk, underscore the value of editing. It's one of nine sessions at Editing the Future.

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