Basic Principles of News Editing

Editing is one of the most important steps in news reporting. A well written but poorly edited story could end up meaningless to the reader. Even a thoroughly investigated story could turn off the audiences if not well edited. A newsworthy story has to be worth reading otherwise the aim will not be achieved. One of the major ways of making a newsworthy story worth reading is through editing.

What is News Editing?

Editing is the process of removing unwanted or irrelevant portions of a story and possibly making necessary additions to make a write-up worth reading. News editing is a process that makes a copy readable and worthy for print. It consists of correcting factual and syntactical errors, giving the required shape and size to a story by using the right kind of expressions and styles. Edited is used to polish a story and bring out the “news sense” in it.

News editing ensures that the five Ws and H (who, what, when, where, why, and How) are reflected in a story and the facts are accurately stated. It includes observing and correcting errors in grammar, tenses, and sentence construction, including adherence to an organization’s style guide. This way it helps to bring uniformity of language and style in an issue of a newspaper.

Basic Principles of News Editing

In every editing task, there are basic principles that guide the process. Principles are the foundations upon which a task is carried out. Editing has basic principles which guide every editor in crosschecking a news story. Though the sub-editor is the one primarily saddled with the responsibility of editing news stories, every journalist and in fact, anyone involved in the task of writing, should know the basics of news edited because you never know when you’ll need to apply them. Here are basic principles of news editing every sub-editor, journalist and writer should know.

Accuracy

This is a basic feature everyone involved in writing should know. It could be a conventional journalist, blogger or anyone involved in serious writing, accuracy should be a major interest that guides news editing. This is because one mistake can destroy the reputation of a newspaper or magazine, and such mistake could be made within seconds. Looking out for accuracy involves checking and crosschecking names, figures and verifying facts in a story.

Attribution

Source attribution involves telling your readers where the information in your story comes from, as well as who is being quoted. In source attribution, you make use of a source’s full name and job title if that is relevant. Always attribute the news to the source so that readers can judge its credibility. You could use the name of the source but if you want to protect the source, you can say “A highly placed Government Official, Finance Ministry Sources, Reliable Sources said…” etc. These are attributions that help readers to arrive at their own conclusions, while steering clear of the suspicion that the reporter is giving his own version of the story. Attribution makes a story more credible.

Balance and Fairness

Balance and fairness are basic foundations of good editing. Balance is giving both sides of the picture, while fairness means the story is not biased or does not take sides. This shows a journalist is objective and the sub-editor or whoever is editing a story should ensure the content is balanced and unbiased.

Brevity

Brevity is a great virtue in journalism appreciated by readers and editors alike. This has to do with telling a story, as it should be, without beating around the bush. It saves time and space and wins applause when consummated to perfection.

Clarity

Clarity consists of having all of your facts and have them organized in a news story to make sense to the readers. You should ensure that your story does not leave unanswered questions and should avoid jargon. This means the story should be easily understood by the target audience.

Readability

Readability involves length of sentence and simple manner of expression. The general advice s that the average length of a sentence should not exceed 18 words, which is standard. It is not easy to read a sentence with more than 18 words. Beyond 25 words the sentence would be very difficult to read, though some accomplished authors have far exceeded the standard and yet remained readable because of their craftsmanship. But beginners are advised to stay out of long-winding and complicated sentence constructions. Making your sentences simple, short and easy to read is a virtue that should be reflected in editing news stories.

Human Interest

Human interest involves evoking emotions through a story. Editing calls for the use of a style that arouses human interest. Sub editors should see the events from the readers’ point of view and the news stories keeping the reader ever in mind along with his hopes, fears and aspirations. While editing a story you should identify yourself with the proverbial common man who does not exist but represents the silent majority whom the journalist is duty-bound to defend and protect. Human interest is a principle that guides editors in ensuring that stories appeal to diverse segments of the audience.

Finally!

News editing is a task that should be taken seriously by sub-editors, journalists and others involved in news writing through various platforms. The principles presented here provide easy guide to essential news editing that can make a news platform credible.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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