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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Copy Editing: No. 1 on the Producing Priority List


I honestly believe there is nothing more important than copy editing in terms of producing a news cast.

If the copy isn't completely, grammatically and verbally correct, how can a reader grasp the true meaning of the story?  Even the slightest mistake can misconstrue the information.  For example, one common mistake is when a writer says, "The man who killed the woman was arrested today."  We don't necessarily know if this man actually killed the woman until he is tried and convicted of doing so.  By saying "the man killed the woman," we are insinuating he is guilty without a fair trial; therefore, we are writing false information and the story loses its importance.  "The man officials suspect of killing the woman was arrested today" would work much better.

As you can see, the smallest error can cause a big misunderstanding.  This is why copy editing is so important.  In order to prevent errors like this and create a truthful, informative news cast, I spend most of my time reading over scripts, especially as video teammate.  

The very first thing I do is check the script.  I refuse to check an edited video until I have already read over the script.  The MJs have learned to make sure I completely review their copy before they even start thinking about editing their video.  This way I can fix their mistakes and show them what they are doing wrong so their video more closely matches what they are saying.  For example, in yesterday's news cast one of the MJs had written a script that was not up-to-date.  She began editing the video before I approved the script because I was working with someone else.  When she finally was able to ask me to look over her copy, I noticed the error.  Unfortunately for her, the entire script changed, and therefore so did her video (which was already almost entirely edited).

I make sure the copy is perfect by reading it aloud--always!  If I don't read the story aloud, I can't hear what the viewers would hear and what mistakes need to be changed.  To my eyes, writing often looks good, but when read aloud, it might not work.  Listening to what the viewers would hear helps me better understand what aspects of the script need to be more clear.

At the end of the day, I always read through all the scripts just one more time.  This way I feel comfortable leaving the news room and heading into the studio.  Knowing my scripts are clean helps me focus more on the actual show.  It's a win-win situation!

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