Friday, April 21, 2006

Small Papers Track

I'm posting a note for Gerri Berendzen:

Copy editors and managers from small publications got together Thursday to
talk about desk structure, training and career options as part of the first
ACES "Small Papers Track."

The sessions addressed some of the problems unique to smaller publications. During the Desk Structure session, a lot of the talk centered around the problems of having a desk that does both editing and design. Jim Lexa of the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News told the gathering that his desk is in the process of reverting from a hybrid editing/design desk to one where individuals do only one of those jobs -- although the process is not complete. That prompted a lot of questions about how the process is being handled and how it was going. Sarah Hendricks, assistant managing editor of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate, was especially interested because she said she's considered doing that but doesn't see how it would work with her manpower restraints. "At papers our size, versatility is the key," Lexa admitted. Many of the editors said that one issue with a hybrid desk is that the editors are too worried about design/pagination and don't have enough time to spend on editing. Crosstraining is one of the keys to striking a balance between getting a well-designed newspaper out on time and presenting quality on the editing side. Panelist Nick Kershbaumer said he thinks the smaller the staff, the more important it is to have a horizontal structure rather than a top-down structure.

Earlier in the day a panel discussed ways to doing cost-effective training for a small staff. Jack Mulkey, copy desk chief at the Daily Breeze in Southern California, drew a lot of interest in his "Daily Breeze Academy" packet for training new editors. Jack brought 15 copies of the packet, handed them all out and was taking "orders" for more when the session ended. The general theme is that training is important everywhere and where time, staffing and money are a concern, desk managers can't afford to lose any opportunity to do training. Training on the Fly ideas included "Take Ten," taking out 10 minutes of time to stress one issues, complete with handouts; using online resources to train; maintaining a local stylebook; and
developing leadership among non-management copy editors by having them plan and present a one-hour training session for the desk. Add handouts and pizza (or cookies) and it can be a fun learning experience for the entire desk.

Twenty-two editors from small publications also got to know each other and talk about smaller paper issues at a topic lunch Thursday. One of the themes of the lunch was letting ACES know what topics editors at smaller publications would like to see addressed in the future.

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