Case Study 3

9 Feb

Protocols – The Idiot’s Guide to Editing

Protocols are extremely important because if you don’t have them you might accidentally call a lesbian a man.

On a broad level, protocols are guidelines. Much in the same way that computer protocols dictate how they can perform certain tasks efficiently, protocols for journalists set guidelines for editors and reporters to follow when communicating with each other. Consider the Observer’s protocol. It starts with general principles for editors to keep in mind. It’s good to have these at the top because it shows they’re even more important than the specific examples of when editors and reporters should communicate.

The examples listed are fairly mundane, which is good; you want your editors to be on their toes, and it doesn’t hurt to have reporters on the same wavelength.The more concerned both reporters and editors are about the story, the more accurate it’s going to be.

Getting editors and reporters to care about every story should be the goal of every protocol. If you just set a series of bland guidelines, sooner or later somebody’s going to slip into autopilot and a fact error will slip through. This is why the Oklahoman’s protocol (at the bottom) works; a literal interpretation of “any fact that needs checking” will not lead to any slip-ups.

The addendum to this protocol also provides another facet: a checks-and-balances system where reporters can consult editors about their own decisions. This is important to have so the editors don’t get overconfident, as is wont to happen in a situation where all you do is correct people’s mistakes.

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