Sports Copy Editors Make The Best Web Publishers

At my previous job, I managed a large team of designers, strategists, developers, and digital content folks. Quite a few on my team were recruited from the local paper where I once worked.

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By Chrissy Clary

Just about everyone on the team made the jump from traditional to digital communicator between 2006 and 2016. That change was hard. Our industry was evolving whether we liked it or not. We had to adapt, and we had to do it fast. Along the way, we made a few educated guesses about who would be best to do what and what skills fit with the emerging opportunities.

One of my favorite lessons learned was that newspaper sports copy desk staff make the best web publishers. Here is why:

No egos

While they are an important cog in the publishing process, the layout or copy desk people tend to have manageable egos. In my experience, they aren’t looking for a byline. They want to be part of the team getting the job done. If you are managing large web properties, then you are well aware of the mountains of edits and updates required to adequately manage the content. To get that job done you need team players who will be happy working on task-based projects.

They never fail to nail a deadline

The sports desk is the last place a chunk of a copy must pass through before it lands in the paper. The newspaper must be sent to print by midnight, and athletics competitions can run as late as 11 p.m. even on a weeknight. This leaves very little time for editing, proofing, and layout. But these guys can pull it off, and they will do the same when you have the VP demanding a post go up at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.

Good with stats

I didn’t realize this when I began hiring the sports guys (admittedly because I’m not much of a sports person myself), but so much of sports is stats. Numbers, averages, scores – you get the picture. So they take to web analytics like ducks to water. At one point, a former Content Director of mine was even sending stats to our bloggers trying to encourage a little healthy competition.

Not scared by a little HTML

Have you seen the programs copy desk people were forced to use to layout and design a newspaper? They use small snippets of code within the text to make the columns wrap and jump correctly. This also helps with font and style formatting. Not exactly like HTML and inline CSS, but the concepts are similar to one another.

They understand the Inverted Pyramid

“The inverted pyramid refers to a story structure where the most important information … is presented first. The who, what, when, where and why appear at the start of a story,” according to the Nielsen Norman Group, it is “perfectly suited for the web.”

For a very long time, the inverted pyramid has been core to news writing, and it happens to work great for the web where users spend seconds reading something before they link off to the next topic.

Need a catchy headline?

In the web world, it’s all about clicks, and nothing does that better than a catchy headline. Sports copy editors live for the short, attention-grabbing headline. They also have a thesaurus full of verbs and adjectives stockpiled in their brains.

These are just a few of the reasons I would recommend any website administrator go outside the all-web centric resumes for open positions. And while I focus on sports copy desk editors and the benefits they bring to the table due to my successful experience, copy editors, in general, are a good option for web teams. In the end, it benefits both the traditional journalists with a career in digital and web teams who will meet deadlines and have some fun while doing it.

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