The editing process is one of my favorite parts of journalism. Through editing, I get to teach my staffers more than just how to improve their nut grafs or ledes. Rather, I get to teach them skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, including how to respond to constructive criticism, reflect on their work and refine their writing. I am known for my intense use of the color red, but that's because I hold my writers to the highest standards, and constantly search for ways to help them improve.
On this page, you can read about my editing philosophy and view examples of my edits along with a video of a staffer going through my editing process, as well as how I work as my own editor.
Coaching, not editing
Edits are meaningless if a writer doesn't learn from them. I never hand a writer a marked-up story with no explanation, regardless of how close we are to a deadline. Instead, I sit down with him or her and walk through my edits, explaining why my changes are necessary. I also answer any questions they may have. This way, not only are they refining their story, but they're also acquiring new skills.
Below is a video of me coaching one of my writers on her opinion piece. You can view and download her first and final drafts to follow along, which are attached below the video.
First draft edits
Editing interview questions
Without asking the right questions, a powerful story won't come to fruition. Rather than waiting until they hand me their printed draft, I spend a lot of time giving writers feedback on their story questions. I also advise them on approaching their sources and conducting their interviews.
View my feedback on one of my writer's interview questions for his story on the resignation of our volleyball coaches below. The revisions allowed him to get detailed information and stronger quotes. This is evident in his completed story, which is displayed beside my feedback.
Editing example: "Thriving"
The front page story of our October print issue covered a popular student-athlete's battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma. I assigned this heart-wrenching story to a less-experienced writer who was up for the challenge. Out of all of the stories I've edited for The Booster Redux, this one sticks out to me as the most improved. I will never forget the late nights the writer and I spent at school, repeating the coaching process until we concluded with a powerful sports feature that our student body was proud of.
Follow the arrows to read and view my edits and feedback on the story. Click the arrows at the top right of the documents to enlarge.
First draft edits
Second draft edits
On this draft, I didn't edit grammar or AP style. Instead, I edited the structure. The writer devoted a lot of attention to the cancer diagnosis as opposed to the student. The story, which was 2,400 words, was also too long. I instructed the writer to put this draft aside and start a new one, reminding her of the inverted pyramid. She rewrote the story, cutting out unneeded details and letting the subject drive the story.
This draft included more about the athlete, but it still read as a feature on his experience getting treated for cancer, as opposed to a feature on how he overcame it. Because the writer was struggling with formulating her interviews into the story, I printed out a copy of her interview transcriptions and we went through them together, highlighting important information and quotes. We also outlined the story.
Final draft edits
Third draft edits
This was the writer's final draft, and the one we sent to print. The draft was significantly different from where the writer had started. This was the story that she was trying to put into words all along — a story of how a talented student overcame his cancer roadblock.
This was the best draft the writer had handed to me. She had used her outline and inserted only the strongest quotes from all of her sources that she had found from her printed interview transcriptions. On this draft, I only edited sentence structure, AP style and grammar.
Below is how the packaged story turned out. Click on the image to view the issue.
Editing my own work
With any story, I write at least three drafts.
My first draft comes from the heart. I don't pay as much attention to the overall structure and word choice. Rather, I write all of the information down on paper, regardless of how small or insignificant it is. I title it the "Discovery Draft" at the top because writing this draft is truly how I discover my story.
After I write my first draft, I set it aside and spend time thinking about my sources, the structure and the information in my story. Then, I print out a copy of it, place it in front of my keyboard and rewrite each sentence, this time focusing on structure, organization and AP style. I work as my own editor.
I rewrite again, treating the story the same way as the second draft. Finally, I go through the entire document again from top to bottom, and fact check every little detail before handing it over to my adviser.