Friday, 9 March 2012

24. When you've finished a story, read it back to ensure it makes sense, has no typos has been spell checked and it scans well.

You would not believe just how impressed a news editor will be at the sight of clean copy - especially if you are on work experience.

Most of us are guilty of getting sloppy when it comes to Mr Copy - we've too much to do and we're physically and mentally tired.

Take this for example:

Right-wing extremists believe ace riots in Britain are 'inevitable,' a new study claims.

I'm sure they do but however much they may enjoy the riots they are more likely to be 'race' riots - that the right-wing extremists are concerned about.

You on the other hand are fresh out of college - wanting to make a name for yourself.

Because you should see work experience as an extended job interview. That's how I got my first job and it's how many others have got theirs.

So the one thing you really don't want to do have a news editor rolling his eyes at your stupid mistakes.

I've gone into this before but it is worth reiterating. Work experience is the editor's obligations to the community at the expense of his/her news editor's time.

One of the things that I noticed while back on the weeklies was that 15/16 year olds were generally better at writing copy than 22/23 year old journalism students.

For a start they listened and took notes when they were being briefed. Secondly they wrote in a plain, unaffected style. They checked for spelling mistakes and typos, they didn't rush it or see themselves as "above" the story put before them.

They never saw the press release as dull or the people or subject matter it was about as uninteresting. They were learning all the time.

In short they were being good journalists. Bit by bit you could trust them with bigger and better pieces.

You are not going to be given a political scandal if you can't get the wedding report right.

Because behind your back people are asking: "Are they any good?" before deciding if they can trust you with anything that might have the whiff of interest about it.

A news editor once complained to me - very probably about err me - that there was not a single story in the paper that didn't need some correction by the time it came to him...and he is only the second pair of (tired) eyes.

So imagine how you will stand out if your copy is clean. Silly mistakes spotted - I mean what idiot would type "right of passage" instead of "rite of passage"? Or refer to a 10,000 seat theatre? Or...well ok, we'll just leave it there.

The fact is we all make mistakes - in some cases they are small and embarrassing. In other cases, such as claims that newspaper reporters deliberately deleted messages from mobile phones in a cynical way to get more stories, they can see hundreds of decent people made unemployed.

A simple re-read of a story before hitting the send button is often enough to spot most of them. In other cases you may have to think about your vindictive conspiracy addled mind and actually check the ringing up the phone company to see what happens when police officers listen to messages instead of jumping to conclusions because of your pathological hatred of red tops and popularity.

*All mistakes in this article are deliberate and aimed at testing your ability to spot them (naturally).

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