Editing: What happens when we cut and paste

Editing is the process of selecting and preparing media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete work. [1]

Editing is important because it ensures the creditability and accuracy of a story. Being correct should be a top priority for any publication that strives to be ethical. The media has a social obligation to inform the public and to do so with integrity. What the media says can have a major impact on decisions people make. Written and spoken words have the power to influences people’s beliefs; therefore, editing should be a top priority for all publications/media outlets.

But more importantly, editing calls for self-reflection. It’s not enough to check for spelling mistakes and inconsistencies within a story. A person should review their work to ensure that it’s complete and has context, but more importantly should that story be told at all is the real purpose behind editing. Is it necessary to put a rape victims name in the paper or should that doctor really be written about while to trial is still ongoing – these are the types of questions that if not answered with conviction could change a subject/person’s life forever. Editors help make choices about whether to spare that person/company from being in the public eye. Most people want their lives to remain private.

The issue facing newspapers and news stations is that our society is “on demand.” People want the news and they want it now. Our fast food culture hasn’t made it easy on editors. Newspapers are caught between profitability and ethics. If they hold off on a story to edit more and don’t produce news before their competitors they will lose an audience, if they lose their audience they lose money and have to lay off even more people.

Many companies are now trying to figure out how to speed up the process of editing so that the newspaper can still carry on but with its ethics intact. Some ways of doing this are: buddy editing (having the nearest writer/coworker reread the story), back editing (publishing the story and going back and editing after) and having designated “quick hit” editors who have more experience and can edit breaking news quickly.


[1] Mamishev, Alexander, Williams, Sean, Technical Writing for Teams: The STREAM Tools Handbook, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, John Wiley & Sons. Inc., Hoboken, 2009, p.128

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