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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Clean Copy is Cool Copy

Clean copy is good copy when it comes to a newscast. It is the responsibility of all of the producers to have typo-free copy in the teleprompter for the anchors to read. When I am copy editing, I am not only looking for typos, but I am also looking to make sure that what the anchors are saying is accurate and advances the story. Often times, anchors will read and say similar phrases in the intro, voiceover, and tag of a story. It is my responsibility to make sure that the anchors are reading a script that adds new elements to the story and builds on what has already been established.

When it comes to the copy found in my teases, I try to determine the elements of the story that will entice and hook the viewer. An example of an element that does just that is proximity. A story is close in proximity to a viewer when that story truly impacts the viewer. In the copy of the tease, I do not want to simply say what the story is about. Instead, I want to entice the viewer by letting them know only a piece of the story and by encouraging them to continue watching to see more.

Some of the most common errors that come up in the copy are: its and it’s, their and there, his and her, and misspellings of names and titles. Misspellings of names and titles can also occur when identifying the subjects of interviews.

Errors in the copy look bad in written stories, but sound even worse when they are read by an anchor. It is unprofessional and can be avoided with a little extra TLC. While it is admittedly difficult to take those extra minutes to go through every story, I have found that I can have my assignment desk editors look over the copy to help me at the end of the day. The editors feel as though they are playing an additional role in the newscast when they are assigned to bring any errors that they see to my attention. It is a win-win scenario as it helps me a tremendous amount as well. It is always a good idea to have an extra set of eyes on the copy.

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