Workshop Recap: Fundamentals of Editing

Even if they’re often behind the scenes, good editors make good journalism possible. Learn about the ins and outs of the editing process, including information about what to look for when revising a piece and navigating relationships with writers.

Presenters

As a WBEZ editor, Cate Cahan works with reporters and producers to conceive and research stories, edits scripts and digital copy, and organizes long-term projects, including series. Cate joined WBEZ in 1998 as editor for Eight Forty-Eight, then WBEZ's weekday morning newsmagazine.

Olivia Stovicek is a journalist and scientist based in Chicago. She’s edited for the South Side Weekly since 2014, with stints as everything from Stage & Screen editor to managing editor, and is currently a senior editor.


What are we adding? What are we contributing? What are we digging up that no one else knows?
— Cate Cahan, WBEZ

What do we want to say in this story? What are we after?
— Cate Cahan, WBEZ

Radio is somebody doing something for a reason.
— Cate Cahan, WBEZ

The first thing I do is look at the big picture.
— Olivia Stovicek, South Side Weekly

Workshop Tip Sheet

By Cate Cahan with assistance from Olivia Stovicek

Thinking about a story beforehand:

  • An idea is not a story

  • How do you turn an idea/question into a story?

  • How has this idea been explored before? What aspects of it have not been explored?

Concept edit:

  • What’s this story about? 

  • What do I want to say?

  • What’s the “so what”?

  • Who is the audience and why?

  • Why do our readers/audience need to see/hear this? 

Reporting:

  • What are the sources I need?

  • Who has different kinds of information? What is the range of perspectives on this issue? 

  • What facts do I need (what questions do I need to answer); how do I find them; what do I need to understand?

  • Who are the characters in the story? How do I find them?

  • What are the power relationships in the story? 

Structure: 

  • What format, length should this story be? [report, news explainer, narrative storytelling; q & a... ]

  • What frame should I choose for the story? 

  • What elements are needed to tell this story, bring this story to life?

  • How can those elements be clearly and cohesively combined?


Editing Exercise

Take a look at the first draft of a South Side Weekly story here.

Think about what edits you would make to improve clarity, accuracy, and flow.

Next, review the actual edits we made to the draft here.

Read the finished story here.

Have questions? Email us at workshops@southsideweekly.com or come to our open office hours.