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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Producers

Copy That! The Troubles and Consequences of Bad Copy editing

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It is easy to get caught up with all the tasks -- big and little -- involved in creating a news shift. Each second is filled with worrying about so many things -- what visuals we need, what sounds we want, who created those sounds, how long is the video, is everything sourced, etc. -- that we sometimes forget about the primary substance of news. The copy!

The trouble with bad copy comes down to two major issues: 1) making it difficult for the anchors to read naturally, and 2) not being able to effectively tell the story to the audience. A lot of times for me, it is hard to copy-edit the multimedia journalists (MJs) because it is hard to make the judgment of what is not clearly written and what is just my preference. There is the basic rules dictated by AP style, but allowing the MJs to write copy that is their style is where things get difficult.

Another issue with copy is its timeliness. I’ve noticed a few times that once a story has been written, I’ll assign someone to edit the footage for it immediately, and once it is done I move on to the next story. The problem is, many times a story will continue to develop throughout the day and we’ll need to revise the text to address the latest information.

Overall, it is important to remember what Stacy said about the rundown being a “living document." Things change and need updating constantly throughout the day, and it is crucial that we stay on top of the copy as well as everything else we do.

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