The Rewrite Desk

In the late sixties, while I was working as the Manufacturing Engineering Manager for the Hoover Company, I would spend evenings at the Hamilton Spectator newspaper exploring possibilities of a career in journalism. The managing editor of the paper, Gordon Bullock, made it possible for me to ride along with city reporters on their beats and hang out in the newsroom in the evenings to learn about the business.

I remember a big table in the newsroom where the copy editors sat. The reporters would throw their typewritten stories on the table. When a copy editor came free they would read a story from the pile, explore what the story was about and why it could be important and of interest to readers, find the lead for the story, write the headline, edit the copy, and ensure the what, where, when, how, and why of the story are answered in the first few paragraphs so that the story would not get lost if the end is cut to fit the space and layout of the paper, and, in conversation with the other copy editors, decide where the story should be located in the paper. This is my recollection of how the rewrite desk worked.

Although some stories were cut in length and content, and some stories didn’t made the cut, the readers, the reporters, the newspaper, and the stories all benefited from the process.

In the world of community media, every contributor in our creative community has the opportunity to improve the readability of stories, to explore how and why the story could be “important if true”, to add to the story, to ensure the story meets our journalistic standards and contributes to our storytelling interests, and to determine where the story could be located to connect with and contribute to our creative interests, our creative enterprise, and our creative communities.