ACES 2012 | New Orleans


Each year, we present dozens of sessions on a variety of subjects that affect copy editors from different backgrounds and career levels. You can also download the program as a PDF. Here is a list of what’s in store this year (subject to change):

Thursday, April 12

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Breakout sessions

Tiny Acts of Elegance: Editing Like a Writer
Bill Walsh, The Washington Post
The best repair jobs are seamless, and editing is no exception. Expanding on his popular Rules That Aren’t session, Bill Walsh discusses the art of making a story look as though the desk didn’t have to touch it.

Afraid of Math? Take a Number
Rich Holden, Dow Jones News Fund
Math errors are the largest source of corrections in publications. This session uses examples taken from newspapers and other media to point out errors, omissions and ambiguities and how to correct them. Canceled

Copy Editors as Curators
Gerri Berendzen, Quincy Herald-Whig; Sue Bullard, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Carla Correa, Washington Post
Curating may be a buzzword in journalism, but the idea behind curating — organizing information into deliverable packages for readers — is old hat to copy editors. Part of an editor’s role has always been ensuring readers get the best information in the most readable way, even if the where and how of doing that is changing. We’ll look at different ways copy editors can serve as curators, and focus on three specific skills: linking, working with social media, and editing timelines and graphic information. Learn how to provide meaningful information, connect with audiences, deliver context and think critically as you sharpen your curating skills.

A Keen Eye for Graphics
Bill Cloud, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Charts and graphics too often contain errors, many minor, some not so. This session begins with a contest in spotting errors (wonderful prizes awarded) and continues with a discussion on how to avoid them.

2:15-3:45 p.m. – Breakout sessions

The Power of Proofreading
John Braun, Vanguard; Sherri Hildebrandt, consultant; Sherrie Voss Matthews, UT-San Antonio
Learn how to take one final look at spelling, design, color and content before sending copy into the world. This panel of experts offers tips on how to prevent design and typography bloopers from reaching your audience.

Writing for SEO, Writing for Social Media
Frank Russell, University of Missouri
This session is for copy editors and other journalists of all levels who want to learn how to improve traffic to news stories from search engines such as Google and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Reviving Singular “They”: Contemporary Usage of Gender-Neutral Pronouns
Sandra Schaefer, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
For centuries, “they” has been used as a singular epicene pronoun in English, much to the dismay of grammarians. When prescriptivism began gaining ground in the 17th century, “he” topped “they” and became the widely accepted generic third-person singular pronoun. The rise of feminism virtually destroyed the generic “he” and left a void within the language, at least in stylebooks. “They” continued to be used in speech and, in recent years, has been gaining ground in formal, written English. This session will review the history of “they” as a singular pronoun, culminating with a focus on its contemporary status as a frequent feature of spoken language, a controversial feature of written language, and potential solutions to avoid sexist pronoun usage.

Academic and Research Editing
Margaret Alford Cloud, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Maria Hench, DePaul University; Mallory Lindsly, Ochsner Foundation; Rhonda Smith, University of Chicago; Matthew Testa, International Center for Alcohol Policies
Bubbling with the ideas and issues of lively students and scholars, universities and research institutions can be fascinating places to work. People who have worked as editors in the news business or other fields find their skills are welcome and useful. Panelists will include a medical journal editor, two university publications editors, a grant proposal editor, and an editor who summarizes research for nonspecialist readers. They will talk about working with researchers, adapting to different publication styles, meeting deadlines and editing for varied audiences.

Even Porn Needs A Style
Eric Althoff, freelance editor, New Jersey
Some of the most unsavory characters in the world are also publishers or writers. And they all need editors. As copy editors, it is not our job to sit in judgment of the material we edit, only to give it the best possible shine. In addition to a broad discussion of the need for even purveyors of objectionable material to have editors, this session will also take a humorous look at the somewhat ludicrous notion that even porn “needs” a style, as well as sly anecdotes from the war room of working at Hustler. From there, the discussion will focus on coming up with a style guide for future material, particularly in the 21st century’s digital ethos. WARNING: THIS SESSION WILL FEATURE DISCUSSIONS OF CONTENT OF AN ADULT NATURE.

4-5:30 p.m. – Breakout sessions

Nuts and Bolts Punctuation
Lisa McLendon, The Wichita Eagle
A basic overview of how to use — and how not to use — punctuation, with focus on commas, apostrophes, hyphens and semicolons.

Freelance Editors’ Forum
Mark Allen, Mark Allen Editing; Erin Brenner, Copyediting; Sherri Hildebrandt, consultant
A session for freelance editors to share tips, concerns and solutions.

Online News Editing: What Works
John Russial, University of Oregon; Paula Devlin, The Times-Picayune; Henry Fuhrmann, Los Angeles Times; Carla Correa, Washington Post; Ken Duhe, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.); Chris Frisella, The Register-Guard (Eugene. Ore.)
As staffs shrink and online news grows in importance, how are newspapers ensuring that online copy gets a good read? Are there new desk structures or new schedules that work? Are there best practices? Panelists from several newspapers (and the audience) will talk about these issues.

Small-Staffs Forum
Tim Yagle, Napa Valley Register; Rick Dyer, Independent Newspapers; Julie Marra, Quincy Herald-Whig
Working with small staffs presents its own set of challenges and rewards. The panel will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of working on a smaller staff and how best to take advantage of what we have. We’ll talk about problems that beset smaller staffs and try to find ways to solve them, or at least offer a fresh perspective on them.

Friday, April 13

9-10:30 a.m. – Breakout sessions

Editing Study Update
Fred Vultee, Wayne State University
New data from a replication of ACES-sponsored research into the effects of editing on news audiences. This larger version of the study asks new questions and uses better-refined versions of the original variables. New findings address the effect of editing on reader willingness to pay for news and find some relevant twists on which parts of the audience are most affected by editors’ work. Readers who are often most critical of our performance — those who see the media as to their left or right — are much more sensitive to editing (or its absence) than readers who see themselves as politically similar to the media.

Fault Lines
Dori Maynard, Maynard Institute
Despite the increasing cultural diversity in this country, most of us do not walk into the workplace with the skills to talk about diversity issues across the fault lines of race, class, gender, generation and geography. At best, that means we are regularly missing opportunities to connect with our audience. At worst, it means we are making mistakes that end up embarrassing ourselves and our companies and frequently alienating our audience. This program, through discussion and small-group work, teaches participants how to leverage workplace diversity into a better connection with a company‚ audience and increased productivity.

Surviving a Redesign
Sherrie Voss Matthews, UT-San Antonio; David Brindley, National Geographic; Greg Matthews, KENS-TV                
You have to redesign your publication or website. After the panic settles, what do you do next? Editors who went through major redesigns (and survived to tell the tale!) will talk about the practical aspects, the political pitfalls, and a bit about the processes we used to develop a new look that incorporated stakeholder and user suggestions. Want to try and keep everyone happy and the publication or website user-friendly? We’ll offer ideas to help you survive.

Triage on the Battlefield .. I Mean Copy Desk
Nick Jungman, Wichita Business Journal
It’s not always possible to make every beneficial edit to every story. Sometimes you’re swamped. Sometimes deadline looms. How do you prioritize? Take a cue from emergency rooms and battlefields and practice triage. Recognize what’s critical, what’s urgent and what’s merely important — and allocate your time and attention accordingly.

Dealing with (Non)Writers
Karen Martwick, Travel Portland; Tess Ahern and Katie Schwing, HDR, Inc.; Shanxi Upsdell Omoniyi, Christian Foundation for Children and Aging
Copy editors in the corporate and nonprofit sectors must increasingly deal with people who are writing material to be published, but who don’t come from a professional writing background. A panel of three editors from government, military and nonprofit backgrounds examines some of the challenges of dealing with (non)writers and offers some solutions based on real-world experience.

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – General session

Style Q&A with AP and Chicago
Presenters: Carol Fisher Saller of CMOS; David Minthorn and Darrell Christian of AP
Representatives from the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style talk about how and why they make style decisions, and take questions from the audience.

2:15-3:45 p.m. – Breakout sessions

Business Editing in Depth: 10 Things You’d Better Know
Merrill Perlman, editing consultant
More than ever before, business is everybody’s business. From instability in Europe to issues affecting local economies, if it involves money, it’s news. This session aims to bring into better focus some of the issues and ideas non-specialists face when editing business stories. We’ll detail 10 points that will take you beyond the basics, such as:

  • What does the International Monetary Fund do? How about the World Bank? Why do we care?
  • What’s the difference between the national debt and the deficit? How are they related?
  • What makes a company an Inc., a Co., or an LLC?
  • What does the Securities and Exchange Commission really do? What powers does it have?
  • And more, including how to translate business jargon into understandable terms.

This session is co-sponsored with the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.

Editing at a Hub
Todd Kistler, Thom Wright, Los Angeles News Group; Pam Nelson, McClatchy Newspapers
As the concept of editing hubs spreads, more copy editors find themselves in this work situation. Three hub editors talk about setup and workflow, adaptations they’ve needed to make, and how they’ve solved problems that have arisen, plus answer questions from the audience.

A New Look at Alternative Story Forms and How to Get Them into Your Paper
Rob Schneider and Josh Crutchmer, SND
The latest in non-narrative storytelling in print and on the Web. This session with be interactive and look at alternative story telling from all angles, but will especially focus on practical advice on how copy editors can do a first read with an alternative treatment in mind and can easily break up an entire story or break out parts of it. This session will also include tips for designing alternative story forms, and how copy editors can curtail bad design trends and habits.

Ethics of the Last Editor Standing
Rick Kenney, Florida Gulf Coast University
You look left, you look right, and there’s no one on the desk but you. The best ethical decisions, it is often said, are collaborative. What to do when collaboration isn’t an option? Don’t panic. Here’s help.

4-5:30 p.m. – Breakout sessions

Missourian Transition Follow-up
Maggie Walter and Frank Russell, University of Missouri
This session is for anyone interested in the news industry’s print-to-digital transition. At the Columbia Missourian — a community newspaper and website produced by Missouri School of Journalism students and faculty editors — we believe our digital-first transformation has improved both our website and print newspaper. We’ll discuss our interactive copy editing and print desks, the role of ICE desk editors as creators of high-quality aggregated stories, and our Show-Me the Errors contest — which invites online readers to win fun prizes and help us improve our stories.

B.S. Detection for Digital Content
Craig Silverman, Poynter Institute
Accuracy is fundamental to what we do, but it’s a challenge to verify information when it flows at digital warp speed from so many sources. Get specific tools, advice and strategies to master the art of online verification. Learn how to verify a tweet, evaluate if a website is credible and check the accuracy of your own work.

2011: The Year in Design
Josh Crutchmer, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Rob Schneider, Dallas Morning News (co-sponsored with SND)
We’ll look at the results from the 33rd annual creative competition for both print and digital and talk about what was effective, what wasn’t and the top trends in newspaper, magazine, Web and news app design.

Presenting Yourself: Resumes, Interviewing, Networking
Bill Connolly, retired from The New York Times; Bill Walsh, The Washington Post
Tips for college students and recent grads on writing effective cover letters and resumes as well as making the best impression in an interview.

Saturday, April 14

9-10:30 a.m. – Breakout sessions

Making sense of “study says”
Fred Vultee, Wayne State University
If you haven’t encountered a piece of social science with your news today, you will soon: whether it’s “study says dogs as smart as babies,” “poll finds momentum shifting in Crook-Liar race,” or “report claims bias in debate coverage.” This session reviews the basics of quantitative social science, with an eye toward helping you assess both the merits of a study itself and the quality of the story your organization is publishing about that study. The session includes just enough statistics to make you dangerous (and tips on doing stats for free). You’ll never say “within the margin of error” again.

Financial Editing: The Words you Choose
Christine Steele, The Capital Group
There’s no shortage of financial reports and fund commentaries to edit. It’s not all about numbers. Careless language has an impact and can ultimately be detrimental to a business, especially in finance or investment where someone else is managing your money or your portfolio. Readers and financial professionals need clarity and a vocabulary they can understand. Join us as we edit some problem financial copy from the corporate world and explain what some of this stuff means, where we can improve, and terms one should avoid in print.

B-52’s and Boot Camp: Editing Military Coverage
Renee Petrina, Jared Marquis, Sarah Hood and Amy Gunnerson, Defense Information School
If you’re attending ACES, you already know that a Marine is not a soldier. But it’s likely that other aspects of the military vex you – or at least your writers. How does a wing relate to a brigade?  Why is CG different for the Army vs. the Coast Guard? Who besides “Jane’s” can you ask when you need edit military copy on a deadline? Our panel of current and former military public affairs specialists from the Defense Information School will answer your questions and provide you with military resources and best practices to keep communication going on both sides of the information battlefield.

Women in Management Forum
Teresa Schmedding, Daily Herald; Judith Shapleigh, Politico; Maggie Walter, University of Missouri
A session for women who are managers or are on the management track to discuss ideas, strategies and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Heads We Win: The Art of Headline Writing
Matthew Crowley, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tips and tricks for writing better print headlines.

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Breakout sessions

Inside Readers’ Heads: “Headlinese”
Alex Cruden, editing consultant
Does headline lingo drive readers away?  In this newest version of a popular conference session, a diverse panel of regular folks will react spontaneously to a selected mix of common news headlines that include words rarely heard or seen anywhere else.  Questions from the audience will be welcomed.

Editing Maps and Graphics
David Brindley, National Geographic
Readers of National Geographic expect stunning maps, posters, and graphics—all without errors. We’ll go behind the scenes to explore what goes into creating those and how to conquer editing challenges. Guaranteed eye candy examples and best practices and tips to avoid errors.

Listening to Your Brain: Speed Bumps in Editing
Merrill Perlman, editing consultant   
Almost no one has time to fact-check any more. But there’s fact-checking and there’s fact-checking. You know a lot about a lot of things, and a little about a lot more things, and your brain often tries to tell you that you know something — especially when what you’re editing has a problem. Learning to listen to your brain as it goes over those “speed bumps,” and training yourself to get more information handy so you can tell what caused those bumps, can help you fact-check without opening a book or search engine. We guarantee you’ll leave this session thinking!

Avoiding Burnout
Becca Dyer, Arizona Republic; Rick Dyer, Independent Newspapers
Proofing, emailing, phoning, tweeting, posting, writing, managing, organizing, designing, decision-making, editing. We love what we do and we know it?s important. But when it comes to burnout, is it a case of too much of a good thing? Richard and Rebecca will share their ideas and generate discussion on finding practical ways to avoid burnout. Open to everyone.

Book Editing
Katya Jenson, Peachtree Publishers; Katy Doll, Pelican Publishing
Two editors in the industry share what they know about working for a publishing house, the editorial process at a typical publisher, the stages of content, freelancing with publishers and individual writers, the ethics of unpublished work and advocating for your clients, and how to move from the newsroom to book publishing. We’ll share our experience with working on various genres (from fiction to picture books and educational materials) and in different formats (print, online, and e-books). Lightning round: the legendary slushpile!

2:15-3:45 p.m. – Breakout sessions

Jimmy’s World (limited to 20)
Bill Connolly, retired from The New York Times
How the greenest intern could have prevented one of journalism’s great disasters. For any editor who deals with original copy in a journalistic setting.

Math is Everywhere!
Neil Holdway, Daily Herald
Math is everywhere! Whether you like it or not. Don’t be afraid. You can do it. Especially when the goal is to make it as simple as possible — because our readers don’t want to do the math, either. Come review some math basics, like dealing with percentages, crime rates, margin of error, and simply big numbers — plus, even the ethics of math.

How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days
Colleen Barry, IDG Enterprise
A quick crash course in how to learn the basics of a new style guide, no matter what style you’re getting started in. This session will cover how to figure out what’s most important for you to know right away so you can get up to speed quickly at a new job or pass an editing test.

How Do I Get There? Copy Editing Beyond the Newsroom
Doug Ward, University of Kansas; Christine Steele, The Capital Group; Michelle Moriarity Witt, Red Ventures; Regina McDowell, Department of Defense
It’s often difficult to see beyond the niches we’ve created for ourselves. But as jobs change –and disappear – we need to consider how to use the skills we have in new areas. Editors from an investment company, a public relations firm and the Department of Defense join an editing professor in discussing the potential and the pitfalls of moving into new fields.

Copy Editors to Multiplatform Editors
Teresa Schmedding, Daily Herald; Michael Roehrman, The Wichita Eagle
How can you turn your print copy desk into a multiplatform desk? Teresa Schmedding and Michael Roehrman led teams to reorganize their newsrooms in the past year. This session will focus on how the decision was made, what the new newsroom workflows are like and tips on how to change the culture in your newsroom.