Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Getting along with reporters

Copy editors' relationship with writers will always be adversarial. That can be healthy. But a little goes a long way.

There's a lot we can do to improve our newsroom relationships -- to keep a small fix on deadline from turning into Custer's Last Stand.

Here are some tips -- some from ACES, some from my experiences -- on how to get along.
1. Give reporters praise. It's harder to get mad at someone you know. And think of the times that a reporter has complimented one of your headlines. I can honestly remember every time.
2. People have a natural tendency to be defensive. Try to work past that yourself (deep breaths), and keep talking with reporters until they can do the same. They may say "no" at first, but get past that initial skepticism until you can talk about the real issues behind a change.
3. Don't be condescending. You're working at the same place, and management believes in that reporter as much as they believe in you. Treat your co-workers with the respect they deserve and that you expect in return.
4. As many times as you've seen errors in this reporters copy, he's seen errors inserted by editors. (OK, that's an overstatement.) Or headlines that are inaccurate. Understand reporters' fears about copy editors and work toward your common goal: engaging, error-free copy.
5. Have a problem? Have a solution, too. It's tough for reporters to get a call out of the blue on some faulty wording in Paragraph 23. Write it up as you'd like to fix it, and float that idea. The conversation will go faster, and a busy reporter or city editor will thank you for it.
Have any more?


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