About the ConferenceEdit

Tomorrow should be rich with niches, copy editors were told at a recent Southeast conference.

Melanie Sill, executive editor of The News & Observer, encouraged optimism Jan. 28 when she welcomed the regional conference of the Southeast chapter of the American Copy Editors Society at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Participants from four states attended the conference, in which the usual suspects such as style, skeptical editing, news design, deadline work and effective communication were complemented by critiques and sessions on fitness and firearms terminology.

Sill’s remarks introduced the day’s main session, a panel about the evolving news media and copy editors in a shifting landscape.

During the panel, Philip Meyer, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, encouraged copy editors to help editors find niches that will serve the audience well. Meyer noted work by Newspaper Next, a project of the American Press Institute to explore new business models for the newspaper industry. According to the Newspaper Next Web site, one view is that “customers don’t buy products, they hire them to get important jobs done.” As an example, Meyer pointed to, which uses GPS to keep track of buses and indicate when they will get to their stops. That’s a job that newspapers can’t do. And many of the jobs that newspapers have traditionally performed are now being done by competitors.

Daniel Conover, news director of, said newspapers should pursue their natural strength. Comparing newspapers to television and the Internet, Conover said newspapers win on “burst efficiency.” That is, a newspaper reader can quickly get an overview of a large amount of information. Conover advocated directing reporters and assigning editors work strictly on the Web edition, bringing back rewrite specialists, and keeping copy editors concentrated on the print edition.

For those copy editors who do or will work on the Web, Laura Ruel, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, brought research showing the impact of editing. In one example, reader comprehension improved from 52 percent to 86 percent, through the use of bullets, better writing, making the main idea concise, and using graphics to support the point.

Michael Belcher, news editor of The Roanoke Times, added more reason for optimism when he said that revenue from the paper’s Web site had jumped 50 percent in a year. even does a daily Web cast.

And broadcasting will deliver another big challenge to newspapers in 2009, said Doug Fisher, panel moderator and a professor at the University of South Carolina. The move to digital television will enable more channels.

To compete with technology, Conover and Meyer urged copy editors to set standards. Meyer said copy editors should organize for ethical and technical certification.

More From Our SpeakersEdit

Other Related LinksEdit

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Chapter CoordinatorEdit

The Southeast ACES Chapter is led by Holly Kerfoot of the Winston-Salem Journal. Contact her at if you’d like to get involved with the chapter or with questions or suggestions about the chapter.


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