As news has shifted from paper to online over the past several years, copyediting has fallen through the cracks. Why has this happened?
As the business world has seen advancements in technology and has shifted toward digital platforms, news organizations have followed. Writing, editing, and publishing in newsrooms have transitioned from paper to online. With this shift, many news organizations have left copyeditors behind, which begs the question of why isn’t the copyediting process a priority when publishing online news content?
The Newspaper Research Journal published an article in 2009 titled “Copy Editing Not Great Priority for Online Stories.” In the study, John Russial sent out a mail survey to 210 newspapers that were publishing online content. Out of the 210, Russial received responses from 155 newspapers.
The survey investigated the following topics: (1) whether online-only stories were copyedited before publication, (2) whether stories were typically edited by hired copyeditors or other staff members, (3) whether captions for online slideshows were copyedited, (4) whether staff blogs were copyedited (and by whom), and (5) whether the newspaper had online copyeditors.
The survey found that about half of the online newspapers always copyedited before publishing, while 15% reported they never copyedited before publishing. The survey showed that when asked why articles weren’t being copyedited, the most common response was that “it would delay posting” (11). The second most common response was that they didn’t have enough staff for print and online publications.
Overall, the survey showed that copyediting is often cut from the production of online news publications. The researchers noted, “Unlike reporters and photographers, copy editors have not been invited to participate in the online revolution at many newspapers. That failure might have serious implications for the quality of newspapers” (14).
Although this study was published in 2009, news organizations today are almost always published online, and several are solely online without print publications. We continue to see a lack of copyediting in these publications. As someone who works in a newsroom myself, I can attest that we occasionally put the timeliness of publishing an article before the quality of the article. Due to the nature of online newspapers’ content, the fact that they value timeliness is understandable, but copyediting errors—such as grammar and spelling—make publications look unprofessional. If online newspapers choose to skip the copyediting step, doing so could negatively affect their credibility and professional reputation.
To learn more about how the digital era has affected copyeditors in newsrooms, read the full article:
Russial, John. 2009. “Copy Editing Not Great Priority for Online Stories.” Newspaper Research Journal 30 (2): 6–15. https://doi.org/10.1177/073953290903000202.
—Kenzie Holbrook, Editing Research
FEATURE IMAGE BY DUY HOANG
Find more research
Take a look at Angela Anne Avery-Ahlijian’s (2011) Master’s thesis to read more about copyediting in an online era: “Copy Editing in the Digital Age: How Technology Has Changed Copy Editing.” Eastern Michigan University.
Check out Elizabeth James’s Editing Research article “When Newsrooms Cut Copy Editors” for more information about how copyediting in newsrooms has changed over the years: