ACES 2012 | New Orleans

Ethics and editing on your own

Rick Kenney challenges all copy editors to be prepared to take an ethical standpoint and use critical thinking to challenge and confront — even when they find themselves working solo.

By K. Lenore Jean-Baptiste
Grambling State University

Are you, as an editor, prepared to use your ethical standpoint confront, to change and to do the right thing all by yourself?

That was a fundamental question asked by Rick Kenney, an associate professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, during Friday’s ACES breakout session “Ethics of the Last Editor Standing.”

Kenney challenged copy editors to ask themselves if they are prepared to use their critical mind, to take an ethical standpoint and to use their “virtue of excellence” to challenge copy.

He said every editor must ask those questions and be prepared to act on their own. With shrinking copy desks, there often is not another person to use as a sounding board. And at one point or another, all copy editors will find themselves alone with a difficult decision to make.

Critical thinking and knowledge are the key elements to making the right decision, he said.

Kenney touched on how important it is for an editor to be knowledgeable when adding and subtracting information in a story.

Copy editors, he said, also must consider the tone of the story and avoid stereotypes when portraying people. Fairness must be part of the equation. Editors should learn to be neutral when working on stories about controversial topics, he said. Language must be consistent.

Another ethical issue is taste. For instance, copy editors should be mindful of the reader when displaying images, he said.

Kenney said that the fewer the editors there are, the less chances there are for collaboration. But with knowledge and by practicing critical thinking, being the last editor standing will not be a problem, he said.

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