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82. Dragging Editing into the 21st Century

82. Dragging Editing into the 21st Century

A newspaper article is often touched by anywhere between 3 and 6 editors before it is approved for the paper. It is a process designed to ensure quality reporting and maintain the high standards that have set newspaper copy apart. Unfortunately, it is also extraordinarily cost inefficient and some would say increasingly unnecessary as newsrooms shift to become more reporter-centric.

In many papers across the nation reporters are producing news all day long, posting it to blogs and pushing it out across the online sites with little to no editorial oversight. Still, feature articles that appear in the paper are watched over by an assembly line of fact checkers and copy editors.

The Washington Post’s Managing Editor, Phil Bennett, sent out a memo in 2008 where he outlined a plan to move away from some of the more redundant editorial practices,

The layers of editing newspapers lavish on stories have long been regarded an essential safety net. But Bennett says, ‘It’s time to put the net away.’ He’s confident that reduced editing won’t necessarily sacrifice quality if it’s done smartly. As an example, he points to the quality work done by reporters whose copy appears on the Post’s Web site without the extensive editing and re-editing traditionally lavished on the print product.

He believes that the more people touch the story, the less responsibility each has to take for it and one benefit of reducing the editorial staff devoted to each news piece (beyond cost reductions) is that it forces reporters to take more time and be more careful with what they write.

The editorial process is a fundamental one in news print, however, the question is what do you think the long terms effects that a reduction in the number of editors will have on the paper?

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