The essence of editing

Kathryn B. Campbell | University of Oregon

Assignment 1: Defend your job

The first is a question from an exam I give about halfway through the term. This question elicited the most thoughtful, coherent, and insightful discussions of the role of copy editors that I have ever seen from students (and possibly from the pros!). If the exam format is not appropriate for a particular course, this would be a great exercise for a journal entry (see idea No. 2):

"You have been a copy editor for The River Packet, a 25,000-circulation daily in Idaho, for two years. The family that owns the well-liked community newspaper has appointed a distant cousin as the new publisher. She holds an MBA from the UO, but she has no journalism background. She has announced that she plans to cut costs immediately, and she has asked all newsroom employees (three copy editors, one reporter/copy editor, 10 reporters, two editors, one designer) to write 250 words in defense of their jobs. Write a clear and convincing argument that you are indispensable."

Assigment 2: Read the good stuff

My students keep a journal whose primary purpose is to inspire them to recognize the good stuff, since so much of what we do is search for and correct the bad stuff! Thus, the students read nearly all of the current edition of “Best Newspaper Writing,” with special attention to the interviews at the end of each part. Their weekly assignments include not only this reading but a written reflection on what they have learned about the reporting and editing processes that produce extraordinary work. I can't overstate the joy of reading their journal entries, which are full of awe, respect and a profoundly new understanding of just what it takes to produce top work.

Assignment 3: What's your mission?

I believe every aspiring journalist should craft a mission statement. I asked the copy editing students to do this, and the results were wonderful. I make all of the students a simple certificate with their mission statement printed on it, and I have heard that many of them do indeed frame them and post them near their desks. That's kinda' cool.

Check out the two mission statements at left.

Assignment 4: A week of homework

1. What’s the worst example of stereotyping, sexism, or ageism that you’ve encountered in the media? Do you think your example is part of a pattern or a one-time event? And what’s so bad about stereotyping, anyway? Doesn’t it just reflect the way things are?

Respond in 200-250 words, typed, double-spaced to fit on one page. Examples for current events in the news would be excellent. Bring this assignment to class.

2. This would be a good time to tackle your reading assignments in Best Newspaper Writing (BNW) and reflect on them in your journal.

3. Map #1: Oregon

4. Reading handout: “Editing for Democracy”; reflect on this reading in your journal.

5. Use the telephone book, almanac, the Internet and/or other resources to find the information listed below. Jot down the answers on this sheet; be sure to list your source.

a. The population of Oakridge
b. The names, birthplaces and ages of the U.S. senators from Oregon
c. The seating capacity of the Major League Baseball stadium nearest Eugene
d. The name and location of a Vietnamese restaurant nearest Eugene
e. The location of the nearest post office that accepts passport applications
f. The correct spelling of the corporate name: dupont DuPont Dupont dupont
g. Wisconsin's state nickname
h. The year Hawai’i was granted statehood
i. The number of congressional representatives from the state of New York
j. Percentage of Final Four appearances that the UCLA Bruins have turned into NCAA championships

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