Thursday, April 19, 2007

Small staffs vs. sentence diagramming ... which is sexier!

One day of sessions down and I’m sitting in my room with the window open, listening to music from down below on the Coastal Terrace and thinking about how it was only 40 degrees this morning in Quincy, Ill., from whence I came.
I’m also thinking about things like staff training and keeping it local and how to separate the duties of editing and page design when you have a hybrid desk.
I got a lot of good ideas at the small staffs track today. I always think it’s great when the audience gives the presenter something to think about.
These weren’t the sessions that attracted gobs of people (just not as popular as diagramming sentences, Chris!) but the people who did attend shared a lot of information. We were talking about the problem of fitting time for cross training in the schedule when you barely have enough people to get the paper out. That’s not necessarily a problem on desks that only do editing, but it was interesting stuff to those of us who attended. And as desks add online duties, those kinds of problems only multiply.
Jim Thomsen and Brian Throckmorton offered some good tips on making your paper a better value for readers by keeping it local. I think Brian’s idea that copy editors can make wire stories much more pertinent to their readers by always being aware of the local angle is a good one. In these days when there’s news everywhere on the Web, you need to tell your readers about themselves to keep them coming to your print or Web product. As newsrooms shrink, copy editors have much more responsibility for making sure that all of their stories are more pertinent. Jim does that every day by taking on the additional tasks of using search engines to keep abreast of the “local” news that’s happening outside of his paper’s coverage area. If a former mayor of his Washington state town dies in Kentucky, Jim knows about it.
Tomorrow, I’ll see how some of that thinking about local focus dovetails with issues concerning editing in an online world.
Now, back to that sentence diagramming thing. The answer to the question of can you fill a room with people willing to talk about sentence diagramming seems to be a resounding “yes” when it comes to the ACES conference. I popped out of the small staffs track for a few minutes to see how that session was going and I hardly saw an empty seat. I got a preview of the session at the Midwest chapter workshop last October, but I’d still be interested in hearing what I missed. I’ve got a new title for the session: Sentencing diagramming — it’s sexy!

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