The latest from ACES

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ACES member Neil Holdway contemplates the organization’s new logo on his hoodie.

The 2017 ACES conference is over. I was fortunate to attend this annual gathering of editors, held this year in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of nearly 1,900 members of ACES, 591 were there for three days of training, fun and fellowship.

Here are the headlines:

  • The American Copy Editors Society is now ACES, The Society for Editing. The organization has a new logo, and a redesigned website will come soon.
  • ACES is establishing a scholarship in memory of Bill Walsh, the noted Washington Post copy editor and book author who died this month. You can contribute here.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook is opening the door to the singular they in the upcoming edition. It (they?) will still recommend avoiding using it when possible.
  • In the headline contest, The Daily Tar Heel won first place in the Student Publications category for the sixth consecutive year. Congratulations!

You can learn more about the conference via Twitter and on the ACES website. The 2018 conference will be in Chicago. I hope to see you there.

Student guest post: Sexist media treatment of Hillary Clinton indicates larger problem

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Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in Ohio in October 2016. (Creative Commons image)

Students in MEJO 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the eighth of those posts. Sarah Muzzillo is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in women’s and gender studies. When she’s not writing or reading about feminism and social justice, you can find her watching “Parks and Recreation” for the 10th time.

As a feminist writer and journalist, I am hyperaware of sexist language and coverage in the media. Because I’ve taken courses that teach media literacy, I have a particular understanding of the ways in which sexism and misogyny manifest in news. The media literacy project defines this skill as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media.”

If editors fail to adequately provide content to readers that is inclusive and respectful, they consequently perpetuate oppression, harmful stereotypes and gender roles. Communicators, writers and editors have a responsibility to deliver readers inclusive, respectful and thoughtful content.

The past year, for example, provided the public with a seemingly constant stream of sexist coverage. The 2016 presidential election is clear evidence that media perpetuates damaging stereotypes about women in politics.

Hillary Clinton, a prominent figure who has remained in the spotlight for decades and famously became the first woman candidate to win the nomination of a major United States political party for a general election, weathered sexist attack after sexist attack after sexist attack.

In 2014, Clinton said, “The double standard is alive and well, and I think in many respects the media is the principal propagator of its existence.”

And she’s right. This double standard that media perpetuates about women in leadership positions privileges men while oppressing women.

A male politician, particularly a white male politician, is typically framed in media as an in control, responsible, reliable leader. On the other hand, ambitious women politicians like Clinton are characterized as shrill, robotic or dramatic and power hungry.

Clinton’s wardrobe makes headlines instead of her policy positions. She is asked how her career may affect her marriage or role as a mother and grandmother. Pundits say she wouldn’t be successful if it weren’t for her husband.

This coverage does not simply stay on the page or the screen, either. Media representation, underrepresentation and misrepresentation have a powerful, lasting effect on the ways in which society views and treats women in real life.

According to “Miss Representation,” a documentary that analyzes the ways in which women are objectified and misrepresented in media, media representation has a direct correlation to women and girls’ self esteem, health and desire to pursue leadership positions.

“Women who are high self-objectifiers have lower political efficacy,” Dr. Caroline Heldman, associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said in the documentary.

Political efficacy is the idea that your voice matters in politics, and that you can bring about change in politics. So if we have a whole generation of young people being raised where women’s objectification is just par for the course, it’s normal, it’s OK, we have a whole generation of women who are less likely to run for office and vote.”

Sexist media treatment of Hillary Clinton is simply one case out of countless other women in political leadership positions who have endured unfair coverage. In order to avoid and combat sexist media attacks, news outlets ought to be committed to inclusivity by increasing diversity training for staff, for example.

Women leaders deserve to be taken seriously. If journalists claim to be fair and report the truth, writers and editors must be committed to tackling sexism, one news story at a time.

Student guest post: With the Facebook Journalism Project, a social media site turns editor

Students in MEJO 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the seventh of those posts. Sam Miner is a senior from Boston majoring in reporting and sports administration at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has previously interned at Cosmopolitan magazine and Time Out Sydney, and she hopes to go into digital media upon graduation. Miner also loves all things Boston sports, Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean related.

We all have that uncle or cousin who continually posts about and shares 100 percent fake news that we all know is fake but it fits his/her point of view so he/she buys in completely and clutters our Facebook timelines with frustrating falsities. This is why Facebook’s announcement of The Facebook Journalism Project should cause a communal sigh of relief through the journalistic community (and with editors especially).

The Facebook Journalism Project is essentially Facebook’s attempt to clean up its reputation as the breeding ground for all those seedy news hoaxes that have been buried deep, deep in the internet and somehow find the light of day. After this past election — where fake news raged rampant (Donald Trump and “Republicans are the dumbest group of voters” and “Hillary Clinton’s child abuse ring being run out of a pizza shop”) — it’s more important now than ever before to monitor fake news and teach news literacy. This is the mission of Facebook’s new project: to create a “healthy news ecosystem” where journalism can thrive by weeding out the hoaxes and promoting news literacy among its users.

Facebook will accomplish this task through:

  • Collaborative development of news products
  • Training and tools for journalists
  • Training and tools for everyone

The portion of Facebook’s project that I want to focus on falls under the category of “Training and tools for everyone”: continuing efforts to curb news hoaxes. Facebook is aiming to weed out fake news from its site with the help of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. While I 100 percent support the filtering of fake news on Facebook, this does raise some ethical red flags for me as an editor.

Freedom of speech is the foundation upon which the profession of journalism stands; and, yes, sometimes freedoms need a check or two. I don’t think many people would mind their newsfeeds being free of hoaxes. The question that remains is: How can we fight for and defend the right to free speech on one hand and yet decide that some speech shouldn’t be entirely free?

As I see it, there are a few ways this monitoring could be done: leave it to the individual to decide (people can download Chrome extensions like the Fake News Monitor or allow social media platforms to do the curation. The latter, in a sense is what reputable news sources do regularly.

It’s the job of the editor to curate — to weed out the bad and bring to light the necessary. While there are certainly First Amendment implications with sites like Facebook and Google taking aim at fake news, they are essentially taking on a new role as editor and, as editors, I feel we should be excited about that.

Real news, real editing

For many years, students in my Advanced Editing course have collaborated with counterparts in a community journalism course to put together the Durham VOICE. It’s a fun and fruitful collaboration.

This semester, I’ve expanded that idea. In addition to work on the VOICE, my students are collaborating with students in a feature-writing course to create a website called Omnibus. The site’s name reflects the broad spectrum of stories there.

Both the VOICE and Omnibus let students edit real stories written by their peers. They also write headlines and captions, and add links. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help them gain this experience.

Student guest post: How to build a better in-house style guide

Students in MEJO 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the sixth of those posts. Alison Krug is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is the managing editor and copy editor of Southern Neighbor magazine and the newsroom director and former copy chief at The Daily Tar Heel.

Last fall, I embarked on an independent study focusing on the construction of style guides. For my final project, I spent the semester rebuilding the in-house style guides for The Daily Tar Heel and Southern Neighbor magazine.

The DTH is an independent, student-run paper at UNC-Chapel Hill that publishes in print four days a week and online every day. Southern Neighbor is an independent, student-run monthly magazine that focuses on business, arts and education around Orange County, North Carolina. Both operate under DTH Media Corp.

Both publications had existing guides that were in disarray, so I conducted interviews with copy editors at publications including The Technician (N.C. State University’s student paper), BuzzFeed and the Washington Post to get an idea of what makes an effective style guide.

By the end of the semester, I had two fresh in-house style guides.

Here’s what I learned are the steps you need to take when constructing an in-house style guide:

1. Read the (news)room.

Before I touched a single style entry, I conducted a few informal interviews with DTH editors and staffers to find out what difficulties they had with the stylebook. Based on these interviews and my experience as copy chief, I could assess which aspects of the stylebook were the most urgent and crucial to fix.

I discovered that the DTH staff wanted a new way to host the stylebook (the Google Doc it lived on was a mess) that was easy to share with staffers and didn’t involve logging in to anything.

It sounds simple, but after logging 80 pages of style entries for the DTH guide, I wouldn’t want to distribute it to the newsroom only to then find out I had to make some huge structural or content change to suit the staff’s needs.

2. Find an in-house balance.

The old DTH and Southern Neighbor style guides were gummed up with sections reiterating AP style rules over and over again. Both Southern Neighbor and the DTH use AP style and then use in-house guides to make additions to or overwrite the AP.

I realized about halfway through my construction of the new guides that I was not being consistent in my decisions to scrap or keep an AP style entry. I decided that because each DTH desk has an AP stylebook account, I wouldn’t copy AP entries unless they were a style point the newsroom often struggled with.

3. Find your structure.

The best advice I have for figuring out formatting is to cherry-pick from existing guides.

For the DTH and Southern Neighbor, I based my format heavily off of the 2008 DTH style guide. I began with a mission statement (the DTH prides itself to be a teaching paper, so the mission statement’s main purpose is to guide new copy desk staffers as they make editing choices), a quick rundown of AP basics, an A to Z of style points and then a collection of topic-specific mini style sheets (the 2008 DTH guide did something similar with mini style sheets, but I refined the format based on BuzzFeed’s meticulously organized guide).

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself when deciding on structure:

Who will be using the guide?

For the DTH, it would be a newsroom of over 200, including about 30 copy editors — many who would be brand new to journalism. This led me to make sure my AP basics section and how-to-copy-edit mission statement in the most visible spot on the first page. For Southern Neighbor, there’s often just one copy chief who is very familiar with the ins and outs of the publication, so a how-to-edit guide was not as crucial to prominently display.

What medium will the final guide be in?

Will it be printed? A Word file? I knew both guides I was creating would have an online home, so I put emphasis on making sure subheads for sections and individual entries could be found through a cmd+f search for keywords.

Where can I look for inspiration?

I found the guides of news organizations that shared the same news values or had the same copy desk difficulties to be the most helpful. If you’re writing an in-house guide for a college publication, get in contact with another college copy editor. You’ll probably find you’re facing similar problems, and it’s fun to talk to someone who works the same horrific hours as you.

4. Get input.

My preferred method of getting feedback was emailing iterations of the guides out to editors and begging for their input. A Google Form or JotForm might work better for you.

5. Be ready to be flexible.

All of my points listed above could be distilled to one takeaway: Do the groundwork beforehand so you don’t have to make major changes once you’re 50 pages into your guide.

But it’s a copy desk: Things happen. It’s good to have a plan to anticipate changes to the guide.

The N.C. State University student newspaper meets once a year to discuss style changes. A style summit like this might work for college papers and smaller newsrooms (like the DTH), while a larger operation or a publication where contributors don’t come in to an office (like Southern Neighbor) might benefit from a Google form or some other online submission form paired with a regular email on style updates from the copy desk.