This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
No portion may be reused without the author's permission.
"Inventing an Online Newspaper" by Mindy McAdams
Hoag Levins, "Print Journalists vs. Cyber Journalists," Editor & Publisher Interactive
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TeamworkWhen the Web meets W.E.D., it's a marriage made in cyberspace.
For years now, some of the best print journalism has come from teams organized under the W.E.D. concept: Throughout the writing process, a Writer, an Editor and a Designer work together to produce an integrated product.
Using the W.E.D. process is even more appropriate on the Web, with its rich palette of multimedia. Throw in a programmer to handle the HTML coding and maybe someone with television production experience to handle video and a W.E.D. team can create a rich production carefully crafted for each piece of writing. Rather than demanding that editors and other Web producers be able to do everything on their own, this mode of working and thinking instead requires only that editors know what's needed to make a story its best and be able to help coordinate efforts to make that a reality.
Editors who are not used to working in a W.E.D. environment may need some adjustment, however. Kathy McAdams, an associate professor at the University of Maryland who also worked as an editor at the Washington Post's online edition, puts the challenge well:
"Editors must work with artists, computer folks and other editors to make connected digital pages come together. Many editorial changes need to be negotiated because of impacts on other parts of the product; some traditionally trained editors find this difficult, especially if they have worked in an 'editor is god' setting. They must be ready to learn from anyone and everyone in the newsroom."
In some cases, conflicts and culture clashes between journalists and "techies" can create standoffs. Shortly after the Washington Post's Web edition began, the technical people said they could do a better job without editors. So all the editors were laid off. The editors were rehired after two weeks, by which time the techies had realized that it takes a team to create a good product.
In her account of starting the online version of the Washington Post, Mindy McAdams adds,
"I have been stopped short more than once by one or another of the non-journalists among us and forced to reconsider something because he or she said, 'Why do you do it that way?' and brought me to the realization that my idea was very newsroom-like and not likely to be intuitive to the non-journalists who will be our users."
That's a lesson every editor needs to keep in mind.