Copy editing

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April 21, 2010
Unexpectedly expecting: How four women faced unplanned pregnancies

I spent eight hours editing this story. At nearly 6,000 words, it is the longest of several in-depth stories that ran in Spring 2010. Depth stories are edited by copy chiefs who work closely with the reporters, photographers and designers involved. The reporter said she chose me to edit the story because she knew I would be flexible enough to work with the narrative style of her story without getting hung up on rules.

The story is about unplanned pregnancy, not abortion. But the story does deal pretty intimately with abortion, which made precision of language incredibly important. There is no pro-abortion or anti-abortion rhetoric in this story.  Even the cutlines were tricky: To avoid misleading readers, I explained that the procedure depicted in a protester’s sign was illegal and was not the procedure discussed in the story. I’m more proud of this story than of anything else I’ve edited.

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November 12, 2009
Print: Newcomer living up to hype
Web: Newcomer Xavier Henry matching hype
Tease: Freshman guard meets lofty expectations with strong performance in exhibition games.

Writing a headline for this story was a challenge because Xavier Henry had been all over the newspaper since before he enrolled in classes. I made special use of the deck to explain why he was living up to expectations: his strong performance in the exhibition games before the regular season. I also enjoyed the opportunity to be playful with a “feature-y” kicker.

October 22, 2009
Print: Time on sideline pains Sharp

Web: Time spent away from game pains Sharp

Tease: Running back returns to football after an undisclosed injury sidelined him for three weeks.
The reporter who wrote this story is talented, but he tends to get carried away with elaborate ledes and flabby sentences. This is my favorite kind of story to edit because the whole thing is essentially a tightening exercise. Once I cut the fat, the reporter’s voice comes through more clearly. I also made careful use of the kicker, headline and deck to make it clear that the story is about how Jake Sharp felt about missing playing time. The reader begins the story already knowing what it’s about, which I think allows the reporter to use a relatively long anecdotal lede before the nutgraph without losing the reader.

October 5, 2009

Print: Baby Jay experience spans generations

Web: Baby Jay experience spans generations

Tease: Big Jay’s tiny counterpart has evolved since Amy Hurst introduced the mascot in 1971.

Despite the fun subject matter, this story had several challenging elements. It appeared in a special section about Homecoming Week, so I couldn’t use words like “homecoming” or “tradition” in the headline or kicker. It also appeared opposite a story about Big Jay, so “mascot” was out. The accompanying photos were contributed photos with little action, but I needed strong verbs in my cutlines. This package shows that my creativity helps me avoid cliches and repetition.