Q&A: Copy editing and business journalism

by andybechtel

Eileen Cukier is the associate editor at the South Florida Business Journal, based in Fort Lauderdale. She has been at the publication for eight years and the full-time copy editor for six years. This Q&A, conducted by e-mail, takes a look at Cukier’s job and the task of editing business news.

Q. Describe your job. What’s it like to be an editor specializing in business journalism?

A. I’m responsible for copy-editing every story for our weekly print edition and every bit of breaking news for our Web site. For print, I’m usually the second read. For the Web, I may be the only read. I also write headlines and cutlines for the print edition, write chatter for and double-check charts and maps, cut stories to fit their assigned layouts and do some page layout from scratch. (When the design editor is out, I do all of the page layout.)

SFBJ is one of American City Business Journals’ 40 local business newspapers nationwide. As such, we feature people who are leaders in the local business community. We report on local, state and national issues that impact our readers’ businesses and help them grow their companies.

In other words: We’re a niche publication and don’t cover many of the things a daily paper does. We don’t write for the general consumer, so our coverage rarely overlaps that of the three dailies in our market.

Editing for a business publication is exciting for me because we tend to cover topics that touch large groups of people and have far-reaching consequences.

Q. How is editing business stories different from editing general news? What about similarities?

A. I need to be on top of everything a businessperson would be interested in reading about, from banking and real estate to legal issues and technology — topics that I would not usually have any interest in. I need to have a good understanding of these topics so I can ask informed questions of the reporters. I need to make sure the stories are written in such a way that doesn’t talk down to our readers, but isn’t full of jargon. In other words: I want that banker to feel we’ve don’t a good job covering his sector, but I also want a lawyer to be able to get something out of the story.

I also need to have the general knowledge about my market that any good editor has: names of places, names of people in high places and any major changes to said people and places. Of course, attention to detail, the ability to know when spell-check is wrong and a working knowledge of the AP Stylebook are musts.

Q. People are talking about the performance of the media in reporting on the economic crisis. What is your opinion of how business journalism has covered this news?

A. I think business journalism has done a good job of covering the crisis. At the SFBJ, we have mostly covered it as it relates to local business (with layoffs and such), banking (subprime mortgage crisis) and real estate (lots of foreclosures).

Q. What advice do you have for someone looking to move into business journalism?

A. Know your audience. Keep up with the major trends. Be ready to read a lot of depressing news. (Hopefully, that’s only temporary.)

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