Sunday, April 22, 2007

354 more days, to be exact

But Chris wasn't looking at an online "duration calculator," so we'll cut him some slack.
Thanks, everyone, for a great conference! And do come to Denver, even if you missed John Boogert's song and dance. (OK, so there was little singing, the dancing was later, and he wasn't involved, but you get the idea.) I got home this morning, and it's sunny and warm. But skiing's not far away, if that's what it'll take to get you here.

Thanks, too, to Khari Williams of the Sun-Sentinel, who passed this along late Saturday:

More unexpected sightings: first a manatee, now cricket.
No, not that cricket.Cricket the sport, as in former Australia national players Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz, part of a group staying over at the hotel before they cruise to the Caribbean to watch their team in the World Cup semifinals (and final?). I have the fan in the bright yellow and green hat to thank for the reconnaissance; after a little chat during our lunch break he pointed out who the players were, so I gladly went over and got some more signatures for my budding sports autograph collection.
The morals of the story? (a) Even in between sessions, it pays to pay attention, and (b) Never stop networking.
Now, I wonder if there's any space left on the cruise?

I can't believe it's over

I feel this way every year, but it seems like we only just got started.

I'm really impressed with the response the online sessions are getting. I'm really impressed with how engaged everybody has been in the discussions. And I'm really impressed with how late everyone manages to stay up.

We had a pretty spectacular wrap-up to the conference today: Dancing With the Copy Editors. ... Well, some dancing with copy editors anyway. We'll leave it at that. I'm sure there will be great pictures, although whether you'll see them depends on how much the subjects will pay to suppress them.

But I digress.

It was a fantastic party on the terrace outside the Miami Herald, up against the bay with a fantastic view, and featuring a string trio that, every time I was around them, broke into a spirited rendition of ... well, something. One of the Brahms Hungarian Dances, I think, though recollections of the afternoon's salsa performance blocked out the details somehow.

Did I mention it was fantastic and I was impressed?

Anyway, I really will regret going home this morning. Then again, there are only three hundred and sixty-some days until the next conference. We'd better get planning.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Do you want salsa with that

First, I think if John Boogert works up his act a little, he could take it on the road.
Second, who said copy editors can't dance. (OK, I know; I saw the same thing you did.)
Third, it's not over until the ... lady sings ... and who knows, I might do that at tonight's party. See you there!
And remember, as Chris said, what happened at ACES Miami shouldn't stay in Miami. Take all of the training and the ideas and the will to improve back home to your copy desks. It was nice to have so many of you speak up today about how we all can deal with the changes in the industry, keep the role of the copy desk vital and be at the forefront of any changes.
Now, go west ACES members ... to Denver. But not before we have a little bit of fun tonight.

The future is now

What skills do copy editing students need to bring to the workplace?
When it comes to this question, copy editing may be a little bit like baseball. You get drafted because you know the fundamentals. But you better be willing to learn lots of new things on your way up.
Doug Fisher, who authors the Common Sense Journalism blog when he's not teaching at the University of South Carolina or doing sessions for ACES, suggests editing students of today get familiar with SMS, read the e-media tidbits on and generally be open to new ways of delivering information to their audiences. Fisher, David Sullivan of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Diego Sorbara of the Rocky Mountain News talked Saturday morning about the changing industry. They all agreed that, on some level, we can't guess what's coming up, but we can make ourselves ready. Diego, who only recently went from the world of college to the work world, said people at the paper just expect him to understand the new media world because he's young. He and Doug agree that young copy editors have a wonderful opportunity to influence the industry of the future. It might take some beating your head against the wall, but as David said, you'll know when to stop beating your head when the wall moves.

Reading into it

Sometimes it can be hard to distance yourself enough from your paper and look at it objectively, which is why I found the "Inside Readers' Minds" panel fairly enlightening. Five people who all take in news in different ways were kind enough to spare some of their time to be quizzed by journalists. (What a fun Saturday!)

It's hard to make too many generalities about what readers like, as this was far from a scientific or significant sample size, but it was interesting to hear what they had to say nonetheless.

Some observations:

  • They like short, easily digestible pieces of information, a la the front page of The Wall Street Journal, bulleted lists, raised quotes, etc.
  • They said their eyes often fall on pictures first, and those can give clues about what the story's about, even when the headline is more abstract.
  • Design matters. Some said that how the paper looks affects if they'll pick it up.
  • Sometimes we try too hard to be "hip" and conversational, and they don't always appreciate that.
  • Information presented should be as clear and specific as possible, and clear labels spelling out what information is where on the page are appreciated.

We're readers, too, of course, but it was nice to hear opinions from people outside the newsroom and to see how they feel about what we spend tireless hours putting together. Sometimes we can be all too close to the final product -- I enjoyed hearing from people with a bit more distance.

Mmmm... Bacon...

I just have to say how much I love that ACES is like a game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."

The conference is such a great way to reconnect with old friends, meet new people and share ideas.

Before I left for Miami, my boss told me that I would need to "bring something back" to share with the rest of our group. I was so nervous about how to share all of the information and ideas that are presented here.

But the Taking it Back session with Zoe Friloux and John Boogert gave me some good ideas about how to share all of this great stuff not only with my colleagues on the copydesk, but also with the rest of the newsroom.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the video "Keen Eye for the Reporter Guy - and Gal" by the copydesk of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, maybe we can get Ron Smith to post it on YouTube.

It sucks being late to this party

It took me this long to blog at the ACES conference! Local elections kept me at work in the Chicago area through Wednesday night, meaning I couldn't get to the ACES conference until about 3 p.m. Thursday, and I wasn't quite conscious. Nevertheless, I recognized so many ACES regulars Thursday night. It's gratifying to see ACES brings people back year after year, even if they must pay their own way. It's also simply nice to see all the people who have become my friends over the years; there's a feeling of home that I always really appreciate.

Meanwhile, I got caught up Friday, and like every year, I made new acquaintances. Like Willis McGee of the Miami Herald. He was one of the people I consulted in seeking information about a newspaper making the transition to online editing -- a hot topic around the ACES conference (we do have our online track this year, after all).

The Miami Herald is one paper where the copy editors all have a role in editing copy for its Web site, making sure to hit the right buttons to get the stories there once they're done editing them -- a process, Willis admits, that wasn't easy to remember to go through in the early days. I say "early days" as if it was years ago, but as we all know, it's all so new, so I hear many people say more or less that their newspapers are kind of winging it: Just get something on the Web fast, we'll worry about the editing later. Certainly my paper is operating its Web site that way.

Some newspapers are dedicating writers and editors to their Web sites, but I suspect many papers will go the way the Miami Herald is going: All copy editors will be involved. We'll edit the copy, wherever it goes. There's trepidation in that, there are new things to learn with that (tailoring headlines specifically for the Web, for instance), but there is excitement in that. Once we convince online and top editors that the Web copy needs editing, too (or as some of us were saying at the bar last night, once someone gets sued for a libelous post), we copy editors will have all kinds of fun stuff to edit.

Did I say ... bar? So much of the good discussion goes on there, don't you know. (I suppose it happens at breakfast, too, for those few morning types here.)