Sunday, February 29, 2004

Keeping it straight

I thought for years that the most difficult and most important part of a copy editor's job is writing headlines. Heds are read more than anything else in the paper. They decide whether and how much the rest of the text is read.

And while I still find headlines to be the most difficult of my duties, I no longer think they are the most important. They are a close second to fact-checking.

While this is one of our most menial tasks, it can have the most impact on readers. A word spelled wrong, a bad phone number, a mistake in a name -- all undermine a publication's credibility. Why believe we can get the big stuff right when we screw up the easy small stuff?

This article, published last month in the Oregonian, is a good reminder on why to sweat the small stuff. It also sheds some insight into what the Oregonian is doing to get it right.


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