The little errors that drive me crazy

I’m learning quickly that (as much as I love it) editing a newspaper can get extremely frustrating. Yes, I’m talking about The Projector.

The most frustrating thing: Picking up the new issue of the paper and realizing there’s mistakes on the cover, again. 

This issue, there’s an apostrophe on CEOs where there shouldn’t be. On the cover. Gah.

Now, even as the Co Editor-in-Chief, I have to say there are  no excuses for this. But, it happens. It’s not for lack of effort, either. We pored over the copy, inside and out. Two sets of eyes read it. Multiple times. How in the heck did we miss that stupid apostrophe on the cover?

It will forever be those tiny little errors on the cover, and in headlines, that nag at me. They drive me insane. 

Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right? 

I’ve started to make myself lists of things to look for during production in order to catch these pesky little errors. For each issue that comes out I make a list of things that I’ve noticed, and what to watch for when it comes to the production of the next issue. 

Here’s a few things that have made my  list, thus far: 

• Quadruple check the front cover. Pore over it with a fine-tooth comb if you have to. Check. Walk away. Come back and check it again. Do that multiple times. Even when you think everything’s perfect, it’s very likely there’s going to be an error. And it always comes to bite you in the ass when the issue hits the stands. 

• Make sure that the page numbers listed on the front and inside teasers match where the story is actually placed inside the paper. Double check this. Maybe even triple check. 

• Ensure all of the contributors names are spelled right. They tend to be unhappy when they’re not.

• Check that all fonts used for headlines and subheads are consistent throughout the newspaper.

• Make sure the dates at the bottoms of the pages are that of the current issue – using a template from previous issues can make this tricky; and if you’re not careful, it’s an easy one to miss.

• Ensure that all photos have cutlines, and that the cutlines are correct. 

• Print out the PDFs of the pages, go through them with a highlighter. Fix any errors. Repeat if necessary (it’s probably a good idea to look through them more than once).

• Double check (or triple check) the PDFs before you send them to the printer. It’s never too late to catch errors.

There you have it, my editing to-do list. I hope that if you ever find yourself editing a newspaper, these tips come in handy (and will hopefully help you catch those pesky little errors). 

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Sometimes you have to tear yourself down, too

Hayley and I have been running story meetings/ workshops for first-years writing for The Projector. We started off these meetings taking examples from the previous week’s paper and discussing them: how to improve leads, how to properly use CP style, and all of the handy tips we’ve picked up in our experience both as writers and editors.

Though we make an effort to always stay encouraging – reminding them that their stories aren’t bad; they just need a few improvements, there were quite a few complaints that we were “tearing apart their work.”  They didn’t seem  too happy with the way we were running our meetings.

I think we might have hurt a few feelings.

So, this week we decided to switch things up. Each of us found stories that we’d written – Hayley’s from when she started out at the Selkirk Journal when she was 19, and mine, one of the first stories I wrote for The Projector last year. We let the first-year’s pick apart our stories: what they thought about the leads, and things they noticed about them that could be improved. We didn’t tell them who wrote the stories.

They went to town.

“This lead’s too long.” ” That paragraph is an entire sentence, where’s the periods?” “The real story is buried halfway down the page.”

At the end of the workshop Hayley and I  looked each other and started to laugh.

“Hey guys, guess what? These were some of the first stories we ever wrote for a newspaper.”

The first-years looked at us, shocked.

“But you guys are the editors-in-chief.”

That made me laugh. It was only a year ago that I was in their very same shoes – and I’m still a long, long way away from perfect. In fact, I know I’ve still got a lot left to learn.

We had a few students come up to us after the meeting and thank us for sharing our own work.

“It doesn’t make me feel so bad about mine,” one student said.

Looking back at my story I realized how much I have learned in the past year – and how far I’ve come since the first story meetings I attended last September.

“The only way you’re going to improve is by practicing. Keep writing. Keep coming to meetings. Keep asking for feedback on your stories. Talk to us, talk to your instructors. Use your Caps & Spelling.”

I said that to a student today when they came to ask advice on how to improve their writing.

I know it’s how I’ve improved.

(And no, I’m not posting the story … the long-winded lead, run-on sentences, and buried story are best left off the internet.)

The pre-edit phase: some tips for interviewing

A lot of you already know that I’m writing a book for my IPP. This work-in-progress book is called Project Peace, and will profile approximately 12 young Canadians who are working towards positive change; both in their own communities, as well as globally.

Before I can even begin to edit my book I need to write it, and in order to have the necessary information I need to write each profile, I need to conduct a series of interviews with the people I’ve selected to appear in the book.

Let me tell you… this has been a process – and one that’s not yet complete.

As I’m coming to the end of this phase of my IPP, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned throughout the interviewing process.

• If the person you need to interview doesn’t get back to you after the first email, send another one. Follow that email up with a phone call, and another email if necessary. Eventually, they’re going to get sick of you pestering them and get back to you.

• Sometimes interviews are going to fall through. Sometimes an interview subject might cancel on you last minute. Don’t get discouraged by this – there’s always someone else on the list. (Oh yeah, make sure you’ve found MORE people than you think you’ll need, just in case this happens).

• When you finally do swing an interview, prep your interview questions beforehand. Organize them on a paper in the order you are going to ask them. Things will run more smoothly if you go in knowing what you want to talk about; and if your questions easily transition into one another.

• Do NOT meet your interviewees in a pub. Your little RCA voice recorder will have a very hard time picking up what they’re saying amidst all the background noise. Opt for somewhere quiet – like a coffee shop.

• Another note about the voice recorder: if it takes batteries, always make sure you put fresh ones in BEFORE you start the interview. There is nothing worse than having to scratch down quotes verbatim because your recorder stopped working.

• Keep track of the timecode on the recorder when your interviewee says something you might want to use. That way, instead of having to listen back to the entire 45 minute interview, you can fast forward to the juicy quotes.

• As much as they may be awkward, pregnant pauses are a good thing. Not only do they let you catch up if you’re taking notes, these pregnant pauses are a good time for your interview subject to collect THEIR thoughts and add in anything they may have missed.

Once you’ve mastered interviewing, the rest is easy….

(Yeah, right.)

 

Editing my bedtime


Here’s the thing. I have always been a night owl.

I think it goes back to my university days when I used to stay up all night writing papers – yes, I was one of those people. One of my friends and I used to have a joke about witching hour (you know, around midnight), and  said that some of the best work gets done between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.

Well, ever since then, I often find myself up until the wee hours of the morning. Most of the time, at least these days, I have every intention of counting a few sheep and hitting the pillow early. Most of the time, I get carried away doing something at my laptop, or caught up in a good book. Before you know it, it’s 2 a.m. And most of the time, I have to get up for school around 6:30 a.m.

Let’s do the math. That’s uh, about four-and-a-half hours of sleep. Definitely not enough for this girl. If I’m going to be fully functioning I need at least seven hours a night. If I don’t get my seven hours I end up walking around in a zombie like state. Which, since school has started up again, is more often than not.

So, I’ve decided I need to put a stop to this. I am going to start going to bed early (or as early as I can as the year progresses and the assignments pick up), and I am going to try and get in at least a full seven hours a night.  It’s probably going to take some getting used to, as sitting in bed surfing the internet has become just as much a bad habit as smoking, and biting my nails – but this is one habit I’m going to break.

I’m setting myself a few new rules. No computer after 10:00 p.m. , Lights out at 11:0o p.m. at the latest. Between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 I can read a book, and that’s it.

It’s almost 10:00 p.m. – you know what that means. ‘Night folks!

 

 

Editing your life: back-to-school edition.

If you’re like most twenty-somethings (me included), the end of summer means back-to-school (at least, for this final year of my post-secondary education). For me,  back-to-school means a serious edit of my summer lifestyle. 

For starters, I usually work full-time and then-some for the summer. This summer I worked a 30+ hour work week at a government job, plus freelanced as much as I could AND picked up some nannying hours here and there. This meant, I was making money. And making money is probably the number one thing my summer lifestyle is based around. I have cash to burn – so I spend it. I’ve never really been very good at saving.

 Though, I still had to get up early for work, work didn’t really involve as much thinking as school does, and I really didn’t care too much if I was tired or not. That said, I’d manage to get out at least a couple nights a week to see some live music, or hit my favourite pub for a pint (or two). 

I got used to sleeping in on the weekend (and I mean, really sleeping in… sometimes I wouldn’t roll out of bed until noon. Gasp). I lazed around the house during the day because, to my amazement, I didn’t have a to-do list.

 Well, now I’m back to the grind and going on my third week of the fall semester. It only took a few days to realize that I can’t live my carefree summer lifestyle anymore. I’m not working full-time anymore (in fact, I’m hardly working), and therefore, have given up the paycheck that goes with the full-time hours. That said, I’m probably going to be working 10 times harder to get everything I need to done in terms of schoolwork.

 Oh crap. I’m going to have to seriously edit my lifestyle: Creative Communications style. 

 Here are a few tips I’ve put together on editing your lifestyle just in time for getting back to the grind.

  • Wake up at the SAME time every day. I know this may seem unnecessary, especially if your class times vary between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. during the week, but giving yourself a set wake-up time helps your body adjust to the routine better.
  • Pack your lunch the night before. This saves you time in the morning and also ensures that you won’t be sans lunch as you’re running out the door to make it to class on time. It also saves you money. 
  • Give yourself ONE night a week to go out. It’ll help your sanity – you’ll get to burn off some steam once a week. That said, it’ll also help your dwindling bank account if you’re like me and don’t have the summer-funds to spend on multiple nights out during the week.
  • Make a weekly to-do list. More importantly, prioritize these to-do lists in date order. My agenda book is my best friend. I wouldn’t be able to keep everything straight without it, and with all of the assignments us CreCommers get, it’s really beneficial to lay out what needs to be done for when – and do it in that order.
  • Set a specific time of day that you’re going to do homework, and stick to it. For me, it’s after dinner. I give myself an hour or two when I get home from school to put my feet up, relax, and eat some dinner with my family. Once the dinner dishes are loaded in the dishwasher, though, it’s time to hit the books. And once I’ve hit the books, I work until I’ve accomplished everything I need to for the following day. 
  • Put yourself on a budget. Most of us have cell-phone bills, credit card bills, student loan payments, car payments, etc. that don’t go away even though we’re back to being a full time student. Make sure you have enough money to pay all of the necessary bills, put a little into savings, and then give yourself a fair amount of cash to spend on fun things for the month. But don’t forget, once it’s spent, it’s gone – no dipping into savings.

 So, there you have it, some tips on editing your lifestyle: back-to-school style. Happy studying, friends!

Because there’s always room for improvement

As most of you reading this probably already know, this school year I am Co Editor-in-Chief of Red River College’s student newspaper, The Projector, alongside fellow CreComm comrade Hayley Brigg.

 Let me tell you – I love putting my “editors hat” on. In high school, I was always the one to edit everyone’s papers. It was always “Dani, do you think you could give this a look over before I hand it in?” And I always eagerly agreed. (If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a bit of a nerd. But hey, someone told me once that nerds rule the universe – so I guess I’m okay.) 

 As much as I love editing, and have been editing my classmates’ and friends’ work for many, many years– being the editor-in-chief of a newspaper isn’t an easy task. Especially when you’re ripping apart your friends’ and classmates’ work. Especially when it’s friends and classmates whose talent, and knack for journalism you hold at a very high regard. 

 I’ve been told to get over it. And I will. To be honest, the more I do it, the more I just forget about the byline and treat it as any other story: a story that needs a good lead, good quotes, organization, style, etc. Sometimes, a lead will need to be reworked, quotes will need to be re-arranged and pieces of the story will need to be cut. It’s just part of the job. 

 In my “what is journalism” post on my day-to-day blog (mediocreobservations.wordpress.com) I said that “to be a journalist is to always believe that there is room for improvement in your stories.” 

 I know as a journalist, I am repeatedly asking myself the question: “how could my story have been better?”

 Here’s an answer, though, surely one of many. I always find that an extra set of eyes – and another journalistic perspective (be it from a fellow classmate, or instructor) always help when it comes to making a story better. 

I can only hope that those writing for The Projector this year will have the same perspective. I am only another set of eyes, another journalistic perspective. My way isn’t always the only way, or necessarily the right way, but the way I see best fit for our newspaper. And even then, I will always have room for improvement as an editor, too.

 In our first Broadcast Journalism class Joanne Kelly said something that I think will stick with me for a long time. She said something along the lines of “there is no such thing as a perfect story. The day you believe your story is perfect is the day you should pack up your things and leave, because your work is done.”

 I  like to keep this in mind both when writing, and editing. I think it’s a valuable piece of advice for anyone who choses some form of journalism as a career. 

The Fundamentals of Writing

This blog will mostly be about editing– as yes, it’s been created to use as a learning tool for a college class called Editing Print and Online Media. But, before we can edit, we need to write something, right?

I’ve always loved this little poem by Charles Bukowski, and I thought it would be a great way to kick off this new blog.

so you want to be a writer?
Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

So there you have it. Bukowski’s thoughts on being a writer. Write away folks, and stay tuned for more posts on the topic of editing.