The SoFla Scoop – Editing & Content Guide
THE SOFLO SCOOP: CONTENT & EDITING GUIDE
This piece is also downloadable here [PDF]
The SoFlo Scoop is a news aggregation post done each weekday during school sessions. The work is primarily done by students in Dan Evans’ (and others, if desired) Jour 3117
The intent of this feature is to provide our readers with a five-minute snapshot of the most important news items happening in South and Southwest Florida. This means our focus is not just on Miami-Dade, but on Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe and (to a lesser extent) Collier counties.
First, a few general rules and guidelines:
- Remember, even though you are using other publications’ work, you cannot plagiarize. That is, you need to rewrite the words they use, not simply cut-and-paste them. Synonyms are very important for this work.
- You need to have at least six different news items from at least four different publications. Don’t just rewrite what the Miami Herald said on Tuesday. Look around. It’s a big world out there.
- Along those lines, news items need to come from at least three different counties.
- Individual items need to be short enough to entice your reader to click on the link, but not so long they know the complete story already. This is as much an art as a science, so ask your friends whether you’ve succeeded.
- Remember that you’re shooting for a wide audience across multiple cities and counties. Focus on larger trends or stories that affect broad swaths of people. Ask yourself: Would someone 100 miles away care about this story? No? Don’t use that item.
- Actually read the story before making a decision. You need to understand the piece before summarizing it. That means reading the whole thing.
- The post is designed to be a morning feature. Because of this, it should not be completed too early in the day, as readers may have already seen the aggregated items. As a result, reporters’ deadline for this is 6 pm the day the post is designed to appear.
- Though reporters will have access to the site, generally such individuals will be give an “author” role, limiting their access. The ability to actually publish the piece is reserved for the managing editor and news director. It is the responsibility of these individuals to publish these pieces by 6 am day-of.
The feature follows this formula:
- A headline that starts with “The SoFlo Scoop:…” (Note the capitalization) The text following the ellipse must include three items from the post, summarized and separated by a semicolon.
- The first paragraph starts with a greeting and an announcement about the date. (E.g.: “Good morning South Florida! Today is Wednesday, Sept. 23.)
- The remainder of the first paragraph is a summary of the weather report for the following cities: Miami, Key West, Fort Lauderdale and Naples. The data needs to be linked to the appropriate source. (Weather Channel is the easiest.)
- The first paragraph ends with “Time to get smart fast” or words to that affect.
- The main part of the post involves rewritten news articles from numerous sources (see above), but a minimum of six.
- The piece ends with a tagline, which is a simple italicized sign off starting with a double dash, name and South Florida News Service.
Additional tips for writers:
- Deadlines are strictly enforced. 6:01 pm is considered late.
- Send the completed template as both a Word attachment and pasted into the text of an email to:
- Dan Evans, News Director
- SFNS Managing Editor
- All members of the team, regardless of whether they worked on the items that day or not
- Grading is weighted heavier toward the end of the week, in part to allow you to see my notes and adjust accordingly.
- The SFNS managing editor does the first edit of the piece.I will make additional edits, as needed, and will provide the grade. He/she will not be privy to your grade.
- Pay very close attention to AP style regarding titles, numbers and street addresses.
- Team members receive the same grade, so help one another.
- Grammar and spelling count. Reread your summaries to make sure you have written them in standard English. Double check the spelling of all names.
- Budget no less than an hour. This assumes each team member is doing three pieces. Double that estimate if you are doing this by yourself.
- Remember you are summarizing these pieces, NOT copying them.Put them in your own words. Accidental plagiarism has the same outcome as intentional plagiarism — a zero for that day. Avoid this by hiding the source article while you’re writing your piece… Only look at the source piece AFTER you’re done to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes.
- Avoid using the same word in the summaries.For instance, instead of saying “investigated” twice, use “police continue to search for clues” or something else.
- Do not convict people, either in headlines OR in the summaries.You can avoid this by writing “Police accuse” or “Bob Jones allegedly stole the money.” DO NOT use “Bob Jones was arrested for stealing the money” or even “Police arrested Bob Jones for stealing the money.” Why? Because this construction states Jones DID IT. Though wordy, you need to say “Police arrested Bob Jones on suspicion of stealing the money.”
Editing procedures for The SoFlo Scoop (Managing Editor):
Please follow IN ORDER
- The raw copy from the writers is due at 6 pm Sunday – Thursday. The writers should cc the news director, managing director and all team members of their team. However, if the ME has not received the raw copy by 7 pm, please send a note to the news director asking for an ETA.
- Login to SFNS.online using your login/pswd. The login link is: http://sfns.online/wp-login.php
- Start a new post by clicking on the “+ New” button at the top of the page.
- Paste the raw copy from the writers into the text area (not the headline)
- In the top right of the posting page look for the box labeled “Publish.” The item at the bottom is labeled “Publish Immediately.” Click “edit.”
- Change the publication time/date to the following day at 6 am. (For example, if you received the copy on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016 for Monday publication, you would change the publication date to 09-Sept / 26, 2016 at 06:00.) Click “OK.”
- Below the “Publish” box is another box labeled “Categories.” Find the category labeled “Roundups.” Click the check box.
- Edit the headline. It needs to begin “The SoFlo Scoop:” with three mini-headlines separated by a semicolon. The headline should be no more than 120 characters (including spaces) for Twitter/SEO purposes.
- This means you may need to do a quick read of the stories chosen by the writer for the headline.
- Feel free to change the featured stories (that is, the ones in the headlines) if you’re having trouble having them fit in 120 characters or if you believe another story is more interesting.
- The stories referenced in the headline do not have to be the first three items. In fact, it is sometimes best if they are not. This is not a big deal, however.
- After you are happy with the headline, cut-and-paste it into the headline field (at the top). Then (and only then) click on the “Schedule” button in the “Publish” box on the top right of the page.
- Edit the lede (weather) for AP style and grammar. The link is the same (https://weather.com/weather/today/l/USFL0316:1:US). It should be linked to the name of each of the cities referenced. The names of the cities are not bolded. After linking, delete the URL from the text box.
- To link, copy the URL above (or in the writers’ piece), highlight the word(s) to be link and then click on the link button in the text toolbar (center-right, looks like a chain). Paste the URL into the popup field and hit the return button. Done.
- Now, edit each of the content pieces for AP style, content, grammar and logic.
- Once you are happy with the edits, link the name of the source (That is, Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, etc.) the same way as above. The name of the source should be bolded. After linking, delete the URL from the text box.
- At the bottom of the piece, edit the byline so it shows the names of all writers of the piece that day. It is a double-dash, name(s), comma and “South Florida News Service.” It also needs to be italicized. For example: — Dan Evans, South Florida News Service
- Put bullets for each of the news items ONLY. Not for the byline or lede. Do this by highlighting all the paragraphs to be bulleted and click on the “Bulleted list” button, which is third from the left in the text toolbar.
- After bulleting, put a soft return (shift return) between each news item to space them out.
- Reread the entire piece at least twice, cleaning up anything you may have missed. You can also click on the “Preview Post” button, which is above the headline to see what it’ll look like. And you’re done!!
- Do not worry about the photo. That will be taken care of by the news editor.
Other editing tips:
- Trust yourself! If you don’t understand something, it’s very likely our readers won’t either. Do not worry about changing words – or even rewriting completely – as the individual item requires.
- Watch for plagiarism – especially pieces that are a cut-and-paste job but for a couple of synonyms.
- Watch for items that state or imply someone has committed a crime. Make sure crime items include phrases like “Police said…” “Prosecutors accuse…” Even the word “arrest” can be dangerous if it includes phrases like “arrest for theft.” That means the person arrested did it. Instead, the phrase that pays is “Police arrested Bob Jones on suspicion of theft.”
- In general, the more challenging the copy, the more you need to take care that the writer(s) have summarized their items completely and fairly. It is rare that piece with poor grammar is accurate.
- Items should no fewer than two sentences and no more than five. Even five is probably too long. Feel free to cut items that go on too long. Remember, we are giving readers a taste of the news item, not a complete story.
- Make sure the links for each piece (and for the weather report in the lede) work correctly and go to where they are supposed to go.
- Look at already published roundups. These serve as a model for how these pieces should be formatted and edited.