In almost every newsroom – student or professional – the animosity between copy editors and writers is often visibly apparent. Copy editors profess about commas and fragments passionately. Writers hold onto their text as if someone is trying to rob every ounce of their being.
Both parties have legitimate concerns. However, when treacherous debates occur, honestly, they defeat the purpose of what both parties are trying to accomplish – producing better copy.
Suggestions are misconstrued as personal attacks. Personal attacks question each person’s character, strain efforts and diminish talents.
There are many strategies to smooth over personality conflicts, yet I’m not a psychiatrist nor do I want to attempt to fulfill this job. The personality conflicts wouldn’t exist, though, if a coaching environment evolved versus an editing environment.
At a convention a few years back, I listened to a college media adviser talk about the culture of a newsroom. His advice included promoting an environment of coaching versus editing. He said, “Editors fix. Coaches build. Editors improve the story. Coaches improve the reporter. The editor is boss. The coach is their coach.”
The primary differences are clear:
- Improves copy
- Deals with now
- Done quickly
- Corrects errors
- Focuses on written piece
Whereas, Coaching …
- Improves reporting, writing
- Deals with later
- Done gradually
- Corrects tendencies
- Focuses on the writer
It makes sense – coaches are likable people – they get dirt on their hands, they jump in to show us how to play and they stand on the sidelines shouting words of encouragement and pointers throughout an entire season. On the other hand, the word “editor” reeks of negative comments, papers marked in red pen and frustration at the sight of a comma splice.
So, if you are an editor, stop fixing and start coaching. If you are a writer, start working as a team player – your coach is depending on you.
– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: March 31, 2010
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