Editing for Today's Newsroom : A Guide for Success in a Changing Profession book cover
2nd Edition

Editing for Today's Newsroom
A Guide for Success in a Changing Profession

ISBN 9780805862188
Published June 6, 2008 by Routledge
248 Pages

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Book Description

Editing for Today's Newsroom provides training, support and advice for prospective news editors. Through history, analyses, and anecdotes, this book offers a solid grounding to prepare potential editors for the full range of their responsibilities in today's newsrooms: developing ideas; evaluating and editing copy; working with writers; determining what is news; understanding presentation and design; directing news coverage; managing people; making decisions under pressure; and coping with a variety of ethical, legal, and professional considerations, all while operating in today’s multimedia, multiplatform news arena. Author Carl Sessions Stepp focuses on editors as newsroom decision makers and quality controllers; accordingly, the book features strategies and techniques for coping with a broad spectrum of editing duties. Covering basic and advanced copyediting skills, it also provides intellectual context to the editor's role, critically examining the history of editing and the changing job of the contemporary editor.

Table of Contents


Preface xi

1 The Changing World of Editing

The Chronic Shortage of Editors 6

Lifestyles of the Nonrich and the Nonfamous 7

The Changing Nature of Journalism 11

Conclusion 14

Sidebar 1—Experiences in Editing 15

2 The Rise of the New Editor 21

The Editor in History 22

The Editor As Businessperson 26

The Editor As Planner 29

The Editor As Manager 30

The Editor As Journalist 31

Conclusion 33

Sidebar 2—Defining the Typical Editor: "How Come So

Many of Them Tend to be Geeks?"

by David Barry 34

3 What Is an Editor? 38

How Writers See Editors 39

How Editors See Themselves 43

What Makes a Good Editor 45

Sidebar 3—Gifts

by Charles McCorkle Hauser 51

4 The Editor As Decision Maker 54

Making Decisions: The Foundation 55

Properly Equipping the Newsroom 56

Strategically Allocating Time 57

Setting a Tone for Good Communications 60

Shaping a Personal Decision-Making Model 61

Conclusion 62

Sidebar 4—Human Perversity

from Editor & Publisher 63

5 Making Decisions About People 64

Managing in Today’s Newsroom 64

Leading Other Journalists 76

Conclusion 79

Sidebar 5—Editors Muse on Their Management Style

from the ASNE Bulletin 80

6 Making Decisions About Coverage 83

What News Is and Isn’t 84

Organizing Coverage 87

Conclusion 92

Sidebar 6—Sure Ways to Become

the World’s Worst Editor

by Carl Sessions Stepp 93

7 Making Decisions About Copy 95

A Model for Editing 97

Conclusion 114

Sidebar 7—10 Steps Toward Better Editing

by Carl Sessions Stepp 114

8 Making Decisions About Design 116

Headlines 118

Photos 121

Graphics 123

Layout 125

Conclusion 129

Sidebar 8—The New Age of Graphics

by Bill Steinauer 130

9 Making Decisions About Legal Issues 134

Libel 137

Invasion of Privacy 141

Courts and Contempt 142

Plagiarism and Copyright 145

National Security 146

Conclusion 148

Sidebar 9—An Editor’s Reading List 149

10 Making Decisions About Ethics 151

The Ethics of Day-to-Day Journalism 153

The Ethics of Newsroom Policymaking 158

The Ethics of Upper Management 162

Conclusion 165 Sidebar 10—Excerpts From "Newsroom

Policies and Guidelines"

from the Seattle Times 165

11 Toward Excellence in Editing 169

Developing New Editors 171

Nurturing Editors 175

Some Specific Starting Points 178

Conclusion: To the Future 179

Appendix: Helping Writers With Form 180

Spelling 180

Grammar and Punctuation 181

Usage 183

Helping Writers With Style and Form 185

A Checklist 187

Index 188

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Author Carl Sessions Stepp is professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, where he has taught since 1983. He is senior editor of American Journalism Review and worked a reporter and editor for 12 years with the St. Petersburg Times, Charlotte Observer and USA Today. Stepp has served as visiting writing and editing coach at dozens of newspapers and news organizations and frequently conducts writing and editing clinics for newspapers, journalism groups and other organizations.


Carl Sessions Stepp’s second edition of Editing for Today’s Newsroom arrives at just the right time. In today’s "anyone can be a journalist" environment, Stepp reminds us that editors and editing stand between journalistic mediocrity and excellence. Readers will find crisp technique, context and encouragement in this coherent, accessible text. Certain to emerge as the standard.

John F. Greenman, University of Georgia

Carl Stepp thoroughly understands every phase of editing. He knows editing’s past and present, and, most importantly, he leads us toward its future. Editing for Today’s Newsroom provides insightful point-by-point guidance on everything from applying basic grammar rules to making decisions about coverage.

This book will inspire the college student working toward his first rim job. It will restore confidence to the veteran desk person struggling to keep pace with a growing demand for speed (Don’t miss Carl’s discussion of the RECESS method). It will encourage a veteran reporter just promoted to a seat on the city desk. And it will motivate a longtime editor who’s striving to provide leadership in the changing newsroom environment. Anyone who edits, studies editing or teaches aspiring editors should read Editing for Today’s Newsroom.

Bill Cloud, Julian W. Scheer Term Associate Professor and director of the Summer Institute for Midcareer Copy Editors, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A young editor once asked Carl Sessions Stepp whether editing was a job or a lifestyle. Stepp’s answer is this book, which covers the "breathtaking breadth" of editing as a way of life. Updated to reflect journalism’s transformation by the Internet, Editing for Today’s Newsroom is a guide to the job of editing in all its roles: leader, coach, quality controller, umpire – even, thanks to the linking nature of online journalism, brand manager. Stepp pulls powerful examples of the best and worst editors from his own career, as well as from the experiences of other professionals, to leave readers chuckling – and sometimes flinching, occasionally quaking. In the end, students of editing, novice and pro alike, are deeply impressed by the imperative to focus on the heart of editing – making news decisions that are grounded in fact and fairness and helping writers to express their ideas in the most effective way possible. If future editors heed the wisdom in this book, journalism’s future will be in surer hands.

Deborah Gump, Committee of Concerned Journalists

"[...] Here is what you should know about Stepp's second edition of Editing for Today's Newsroom: Buy it, read it, and savor it as a passionate testimony to, and a practical handbook for, editors everywhere."

-- Jan Leach, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

"Readers will enjoy the bonus vignettes, short slices of real newsroom insight, such as proceedings from a paper's news meeting, problems student editors have dealt with, recommendations from former editors, cases, debates, and newsroom lore."

-- Jan Leach, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

"This book should be circulated in newsrooms and classrooms to help energize and inspire editors; they deserve to celebrate the joy that is journalism."

-- Jan Leach, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly