By its nature, copy editing is a reactive craft, but anticipatory action
help a lot. Practical suggestions are below. Does your desk do these -- or
1. Pre-assign each centerpiece to an individual
copy editor (not only the story but the photos and graphics). That copy
editor should then follow and encourage its progress toward print. If, despite
these efforts, its timely realization appears uncertain, suggest or ask
about a Plan B.
Rationale: Beyond the important fact that the centerpiece
draws a lot of
reader attention and is thus worth doing well, with its many elements the
centerpiece is hardest to railroad successfully and most difficult to find a
substitute for at the last minute.
2. Put the copy desk slots' names and phone numbers on department
budgets each day.
Rationale: The easier you make it for others to reach the right
the more likely they are to call with something helpful.
3. As soon as a copy editor is uncertain about what's new or special
piece of coverage, ask the person who should know -- and then get the answer
into print in a way readers will appreciate.
Rationale: Which would the reporter or story editor rather have:
question, early on, such as ''I'm thinking about a headline for that piece
and just want to make sure I'm on the right track, so ... ?'' or a bad
surprise and a recrimination session the next day?
4. As soon as a layout is designed, ascertain whether key words will
the largest type. If not, work with the designer. And if a change can't be
mde for the first edition, accomplish it for the next.
Rationale: Why should the newspaper make the reader guess what
5. If you're the copy editor waiting for a particular story, make notes
the questions or problems you might need to address -- and start assembling
the answers. Get reference sources ready, including previous stories on the
topic. Think about a headline. Draft a caption.
Rationale: You'll have a better shot at being accurate AND making
6. Sustain a small pool of fresh stories, fully edited in various lengths,
ready to use when, at the last minute, it turns out you have too much space
or a story you shouldn't print.
Rationale: Readers (and page designers) usually prefer a nice
feature to a
blank space or house ad.