Friday, April 5, 2019

A to Z Challenge - E for Editing

Theme - Journalism jargons
The heart of a newsroom has two sections: news bureau (where copies are generated) and news desk (where the copies are processed). Editing is one of the functions of the news desk.

Many people relate the word editing to "censoring", "deleting", etc. It usually carries a negative connotation, as in "it was edited out".

But the process of editing is much more than merely "striking out", and is a very positive thing. 


Editing has many components:

1. Checking the accuracy of facts and language: Why information has to be factual is obvious. Language too needs to be correct, because punctuation in the wrong place or a wrong article or wrong preposition can completely alter the meaning of a sentence, and thereby lead to miscommunication.

2. Checking for bias and ensuring objectivity: In a news copy, there has to be views and counter-views; copies should not be biased in favour of one person or institution.

3. Checking for libel, contempt of court, legislature etc: Copies need to be free of any words or attributions that could have legal issues, especially when it comes to court and legislature reporting; or that could prompt someone to file a case of libel.

4. Checking for clarity. A copy might be perfect in all aspects, but it might not be clear to a reader. It happens because of various reasons: sequencing of the narration might be wrong or the writer would have left out some detail, which she presumed the reader would know.

It also stems out what I call 'idea-rendition incongruence'. A writer converts ideas into words; a reader converts the words she reads into ideas. A writer, who writes a story, knows the plot; but a reader doesn't know the story, she would know only after reading the piece.

If there is some problem in the way a passage has been written, a reader might not understand it the way the writer would have wanted.

This is one reason why usually any piece of writing is read by someone other than the author, by someone who doesn't know what has been written.

In the news desk, the copy editors (also called subeditors) are the first readers of a news story; and they ensure that the copies are clear and understandable to the readers.

5. Rewriting, merging, trimming of copies: For various reasons, original copies of reporters might have to be rewritten or summarised.

Sometimes, copies of multiple reporters would have to be merged into a single copy. With a fixed number of pages, newspapers have a limitation of space.

So it might not be possible to fit into a slot everything a reporter has written. Copies would have to be trimmed to fit the space.


While the journalists, who report are in the limelight, with their names printed, the journalists who work on the copies, or in other words, who edit, are barely visible to the reader.

Their work is in the background, it's a thankless job they do. They are the ones who give the final shape to the copies and provide the look and feel to the newspaper the readers get to read the next day.

(This post is a part of the "Blogging from A to Z Challenge April 2019".)


  1. Hi, Pradeep - I am greatly enjoying your theme of "journalism jargons". You have covered so many things that I hadn't realized, had ignored or had simply forgotten. I look forward to reading more!

  2. Editing is important. It's that first reader who can make sure that the words make sense.

    1. Thanks, Liz. If a story doesn't make sense to the first reader, it might not for many others too.

  3. Editing is very important. This comments is about Item # 2 in your post. Checking for bias and ensuring objectivity. Nowadays many news organizations give their own "opinion" instead of just reporting a story. They can give their "opinion" in the Editorial.

    1. Hi Rajan -

      I am not denying that media don't have their slants. In that sense, the American and European media are far more pronounced in their leanings, than the Indian media.

      What you have pointed out is a bit of a grey area. News reports might not give equal prominence to all shades of views. Some might get a greater coverage than others. The barrier between news and views has blurred considerably nowadays, and you need to be very perceptive to identify one from the other.

  4. Editors are a truly unsung and quiet band of heroes. Not just in the case of news, where it is of course super important to fact-check and ensure correct language and grammar etc, it's important for fiction writing also. Particularly for idea-rendition incongruence. True for any piece of written communication really.

    1. Yes, Nilanjana, you are right. Editing is such an important function in publications.

  5. Thank you for the comprehensive breakdown. Interesting stuff. Be well!

  6. Nowadays it appears as if some publishing houses have chosen which political party to promote and which one to denigrate.We have to sift through the news.

  7. @ Indu - Yes, an unfortunate reality of modern times!