Editing world news

I don’t blog much about work, mainly because there is no set conditions by which we blog. And also because text sub-editing doesn’t involve much in the way of newsiness.

Yesterday though I edited our two world pages for the first time. It was an interesting day, though Sunday can be slow I guess.

From the morning I had intended to lead with Berlusconi and the Italian elections on the first page and Zimbabwe on the second world page. Nothing much happened during the day to alter that.

Half way through the day news of a coalition in Kenya came through, so I decided to sit that beside the Zimbabwe story and use a lead picture of Kenyan President Kibaki. I think the BBC used a similar, or the same, picture – mainly because it was the best of a bad lot. Zimbabwe was still my lead, and the Obama ‘incident’ was my second lead. A leg of briefs, including the 8,000 year old trees story (made sure to keep that in, it was very interesting), H5N1 in South Korea and a couple of others. Downpage was a story on Tibetan monks being arrested, and some violence in Darfur on the fifth anniversary of the conflict.

On the first page nothing much changed from my morning plan, except some design alterations. I kept the Murat libel story, led with Italian election too with a main pic and colour piece below. A leg of briefs leading with Nepal elections and British tourists killed in Ecuador. The Italian woman killed in Turkey, the Paps selling drugs to Ledger story.. and that about summed it up.

I would have liked to have got in the BAE/corruption/banking story, but space dictated. I would also have liked to put in something about the Pope’s US visit, but again not enough space. Rawstory mentioned that he may snub a Whitehouse dinner.

Besides that I was happy enough, and I shall speak to the powers that be to get some feedback on my selections. I guess the other metric I have is the competition, and since I don’t have access to the Indo as yet I should look at what the IT picked.

They led with all the same stories. And about 70% of their offleads were the same. They gave more space to the old trees story than I did. They also got the Pope in which I would have liked, and a tee-up to Merkel’s visit to Ireland today (though it was a local journo writing colour really). Overall though pretty much the same selections, though they didn’t feature Darfur, Ledger, or the Italian lady killed in Turkey.

If I was writing in my capacity as an employee of de paper I would ask you for your opinions on future direction, or stories I missed that should have gone in.

But since this is purely a personal blog I cannot do so, though of course comments are always welcome.

5 Responses to “Editing world news”

  1. DisgracedMinister says:

    When you say “more space” do you mean that the article contained more in depth analysis rather than just the bare minimum of facts?

    Also do you think of what people can access on the internet and try to differentiate the reading experience from the online pick and mix?

    Oh and one more thing I would love to see in a newspaper is stories written in foreign papers, especially China. They do it here in Japan sometimes but Japanese newspapers are focused mainly on domestic affairs.

    Sorry for the long question.

  2. Gavin Sheridan says:

    I mean actual physical space on a page. Trying to squeeze five stories into a small page with bigs ads is pushing it… Stories can be edited down, but only so much.

    Not sure what you mean by online?

    Unfortunately the resources needed for a translation service like that would be rather large, and most newspapers would not do that. I know some periodicals do that though.

  3. niall says:

    A very interesting post, gavin. I’m not on the editorial side and have very little experience of working in print so would appreciate hearing more of your take on the job.

    I’ve long since given up attempting to work out how the foreign pages set their agenda. There’s such a range of top stories on the uk broadsheets, largely dependent on the paper’s individual ideology. I’m intrigued, however, by the possibility that foreign desks could use the online uptake of their copy to influence their decision as to the weight they give a story – ie if there’s huge interest in an online piece, how much does that effect where it’s placed (if at all) in the paper? What are your thoughts?

    The rundown in broadcast news is generally pretty uniform: the top three stories are usually the same no matter the outlet, although the order may differ. Foreign news is a different beast.

    And before I forget – well done, mate. Nice wee step up the ladder, and in an area that you clearly have the cojones and knowledge to make it.

  4. Gavin Sheridan says:

    An interesting question, and one I have often considered.

    I do tend to check various websites for the ‘most read’, ‘most recommended’ and ‘most emailed’. Reuters, Yahoo News and the BBC all offer this service. Yahoo News has the most comprehensive I’ve found.

    http://news.yahoo.com/i/964;_ylt=Al9WYuiT_6n3j3arA0Rv9nRvaA8F

    This gives an idea of what stories people are finding interesting… and sometimes quirky stories make it to the top. To allow for this though, our paper runs these stories seperately on the back page.

    In relation to editiorial discretion and how much influence it would have on myself, I would say that its dependent on the story. I guess it’s a balancing act between stories that are ‘important’ (or those I find important), and those ones people are actually clicking on.

    For example the US-centred Yahoo News most viewed:

    http://news.yahoo.com/ms/1776;_ylt=Au0gBzmpOu64_XiIjxLgP3EDW7oF

    Over half of those stories would feature regardless of their popularity, simpy because they are important. Picking other ones to sit alongside the ‘big’ stories is a matter for the editor.

    I would imagine other newspaper also look at these figures, though I guess that would also be dependent on how old the person is, and how digitally ‘native’ they are, to put it in Murdoch parlance.

    For example yesterday I featured the story on earthquakes as a brief:

    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jGtNgeoxLtX_60kT7_7qa2Kkj55AD900250O0

    Partly this was because it was one of the most read stories yesterday, and partly because it was pretty interesting anyway. But then it was probably most viewed because it was interesting.

  5. DisgracedMinister says:

    I meant the mixture between blogs, newspapers, periodicals etc.

    I actually interested how the foreign desk sets its agenda but not in any conspiratorial kind of way. I was just curious how the need to get a job done may conflict with getting important viewpoints out.

    Anyways i enjoyed the post.