A Work in Progress

by Dan Ward

The rush to publish occasionally results in mistakes in the online newsroom, and The Washington Post had a doozy on Monday.

It posted a health story by Laura Ungar, the medical writer with The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., but as pointed out by Gawker.com, the version Post-ed was not meant for public display.  Rather, it was a work in progress that still included many notes from Ungar’s editor, telling her which quotes needed to be re-worked, which copy was difficult to understand, where she needed to do more in-depth reporting, etc.

I’ve seen online comments about this “poor reporter,” who must now admit to the world that her copy is edited.  I, for one, don’t see the big deal (beyond, of course, how a publication as respected as the Post could post a story without noticing SEVERAL HUNDRED WORDS IN ALL CAPS ABOUT HOW MUCH WORK THE STORY STILL NEEDED).

OK, the reporter had a lot of edits to deal with.  So do many of the things her colleagues and peers write every day.  So do many of the things my colleagues write.  So do many of the things I write.  Editing is part of the process.  It’s what ensures that what is seen by the public represents the organization’s best work.

My only concern is that editors appear to be going the way of the Dodo, thanks to budget and staffing cuts.  What will news become when there is no one in the newsroom to provide constructive criticism?  Will it still represent the media’s best work?


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