Student guest post: Editing a rivalry

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guests posts for this blog this semester. This is the seventh of those posts. Pat James is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill specializing in reporting and sports communication. He was born in Asheville, North Carolina, where he grew up constantly watching Tar Heels athletics. He is an assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. Outside of working in the field of sports journalism, James dreams of one day winning his fantasy football league.

It’s just past 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18, and the UNC men’s basketball team is moments away from a 92-90 loss against Duke University at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

As the game ends, fans in the stadium leave, people at home turn off their TVs and those who were listening to the game on the radio turn the dial or wait to hear Coach Roy Williams’ postgame interview.

But as an assistant sports editor for The Daily Tar Heel, my night is just getting started. The deadline for our newspaper is 12:30 a.m., and I need to be prepared for when our writers send in their stories. It’s this preparation that can determine whether we make deadline as well as the edits that can be made in the short amount of time allotted.

The first step of preparation is to know what’s going on in the game as it happens. This can be difficult at times, as we might have other stories and writers coming in throughout the night. In these situations, I tend to keep a play-by-play or Twitter window open on my computer as I edit.

But on this night, the two UNC-Duke stories are the only ones we have coming in. Because of this, I’m able to watch the game in our conference room and keep notes of players, plays, stats and other notes that might be mentioned in our writers’ stories.

After the game ends, I begin searching through my notes and the final box score to determine what information I should start CQing, or fact-checking. In our CMS, links to CQs are included in our articles to help management and the copy desk as they read the story. Good CQs can cut the amount of time it takes for them to read the stories, and it also gives me more time to make my own edits once the stories are sent to me.

Once all of the CQs I can think of our compiled into a single Google document, it’s time to wait for the stories to come in. During this time period, I’m thinking about whether there are any CQs I might have missed as well as what pertinent information, such as records and national rankings, I should be looking for once I start editing.

When the stories come in, I take one story and one of the other assistants takes the other. My first read includes looking over the story to make sure it has all of the essential elements — most significantly the final score in one of the opening paragraphs. I then read for grammar, spelling and style errors. Lastly, I do a full read in which I make sure the story makes sense before CQing it.

This entire process is how I approach every story that comes in late. I believe the routine helps cut down on the amount of time it takes for me to read while also making sure I cover everything that could pose a potential problem once the story gets to management and eventually to our readers the next day.