1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

As a stringer, do I have the right to complain about copy editors?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SuperflySnuka, Sep 14, 2006.

  1. I string for a major newspaper in a major town. I'm relatively qualified, some experience, little talent.

    Anyway, I submitted a deadline gamer for a D1-AA football team and hour before deadline. Called in, they said 16 inches. I wrote 16 inches. Checked in and the copy editor loved the lede and story. She passed it on to the next guy. He cuts it to 13 inches and mauls my lede. Literally pulled the whole thing.

    I was butthurt and talked about it with the editor, who had a thorough and thoughtful discussion with me.

    My question is, should I just have swallowed the bitter pill and accepted that my story was cut, or should I have stood up for myself?
  2. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    I'm always willing to offer an ear to my stringers to explain why this or that happened. That's the only way they learn. So, stick up for yourself, but don't become one of those assholes who thinks everything he writes is a Pulitzer.
  3. Point taken. Every so often — like most, if not all, sportswriters I've met — I'll think that my prose is perfect. It has yet to be.
  4. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    On the one hand, it is their paper and they are responsible for what goes in. There really isn't much you can DO about it. This stuff happens, and there may be legitimate reasons for it - space was miscalculated, the editor wanted something different.

    However, it is your work. I would certainly ask about why it was done, especially if you believed you were doing what you were supposed to do. I wouldn't make too much of an issue about it.

    Ask yourself this question - if they wanted a straight AP style, would take the assignment? If the answer is yes, then you shouldn't make too much of a fuss.

    The other thing you can do is that since you have one copy editor there who seems to appreciate your work, maybe you could see if you could get your story routed to someone other than the person who messed with your story.
  5. Rolling, I know what you mean. We probably work for the same damn paper.
  6. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Usually "the next guy" outranks the copy editor. He's called "the slot." It's his or her job to scrutinize the work of you and the copy editor and remedy it if either are lacking. The copy editor can give you the all-clear, but the slot may disagree. The copy editor may be inexperienced or not very good; all desks have their weak spots. Bear in mind that the slots become slots by being very good copy editors but also they have to read everything in the section and don't always have time on deadline to talk to you, although if major work is done, they ought to talk to you after deadline when possible.
  7. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    Like I said, just ask about it. Showing that extra initative when it comes to your stories, showing a desire to improve, editors notice that sort of thing. They won't always be able to help out, but the ball is in your court. Plus, it's a good way to get noticed, just don't become a pest.
  8. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    See: boots thread about going backdoor.
  9. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member


    Get over it. Things change during the night; maybe the hole they thought was going to be 12 inches ended up being 10 inches. I suspect the two inches they whacked out weren't going to be the two inches that would end up winning you the Pulitzer Prize, but who knows.

    Get over it.

    The only time a stringer has legitimate grounds to bitch is when he/she doesn't get paid. That happens often enough with a lot of nickel-and-dime papers, so save up your energy to bitch about THAT when it happens.

    Be aware, also, that you guys (stringers) are being used in a continuing effort by Mr. Publisher to cut down the workforce, force professional journalists out of work, end careers, and farm writing assignments which could go to staff writers off on stringers, to whom they can pay a fraction of a staffer's salary (and needless to say, cut out benefits altogether).

    Not your fault and nothing personal. Hell, most of us started out as stringers; I did. But Mr. Publisher thinks reporting local events is mindless grunt work any goofy dingbat with a laptop can do, and he pays accordingly. Mr. Publisher tells the SE to lay off two full-time staffers, "Just go and find 3-4 stringers to take up the slack." (Like competent, qualified stringers are growing on trees or working down at McDonald's. Wait, they probably are -- after being laid off from their full-time sports writing jobs.)

    So don't be surprised when the actual full-time employee staff members don't exactly take a warm and nurturing attitude toward your copy.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Complaining about a story being cut 2-3 inches does seem a bit like whining. Any length you are given for a deadline story is a ballpark estimate anyway. Unless the paper is the quantam physics journal, maybe.

    Now, if your story is rewritten or the lead is lopped off, that's worth a call to the editor. Just do it in a constructive way. I noticed my story was changed. Did my lede not work? Etc.
  11. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Take a different turn with it. Instead of complaining about it getting butchered, ask "the next guy" what happened. Explain that you thought it was pretty good, but apparently, they didn't. So how can you improve your writing so it doesn't happen next time.
    Maybe they'll offer feedback you can use, maybe they'll make an excuse. But it's non-confrontational and gets your point across.
  12. Idaho

    Idaho Active Member

    That's probably the biggest issure right there. If you're stuff is close to deadline -- like most gamers from stringers, staffers and everyone else -- there is probably an ever-decreasing newshole and they simply must squeeze the story into the 10-inch spot.

    They'd much rather have your stuff come in at 12 inches and trim off two inches of play-by-play or stats, than have a 10-inch gamer for a 12-inch hole.

    Butchering the lede, on the other hand, shouldn't happen unless it sucked.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page