Shall I edit this for you?

By Steve Outing

In my current role as publisher of a network of citizen-media-based websites (well, only one is live today, but more are coming soon), I really have to curb my editing tendencies. You see, I spent part of my career working as a newspaper copy editor. But in my new job, I have to bite my tongue a lot when content comes in from our users that’s less than perfect in the language and spelling departments.

Here’s an example of a little story that got posted to today, from a kid who shared a near-death experience when riding with some buddies. It’s riddled with errors. So, do I fix them? Or just let it go in the condition the kid submitted it?

I choose the latter. is based on the premise that people can tell their own stories, and I don’t want to get in the position of being their editor. (Of course, if something is inappropriate or otherwise violates our terms of service, I’ll unpublish the submission.)

There’s debate in the citizen-media world about editing vs. not editing, with good arguments on both sides. Something I’m thinking about is offering light copy editing as an option. That is, when a user submits an article, there might be a checkbox that says: “Check this box if you’d like our editors to fix spelling and grammatical errors.” The submission could go into a queue and be looked over before it’s published.

I suspect that some people with poor writing skills might appreciate this service. What do you think of this idea?

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

11 Responses to "Shall I edit this for you?"

  1. nick
    nick 11 years ago .Reply

    I think it would help the individual and organization’s credibility if you at least ran a basic spelling/grammar/punctuation. No matter how thrilling the account may be, if someone uses a “there,” instead of a “their,” I tend to close browser windows without reading it. I know these cit-publishing platforms pride themselves on the lack of editor or higher-up control but, hey, everyone needs an editor, a second opinion or some kind of guidance. I guess the little checkbox is the best compromise. Maybe you could offer levels of service? Such as “just grammar/spelling,” “grammar/spelling/basic writing coaching,” etc. Editing isn’t evil. It’s a necessary evil.

  2. Andrew Grant-Adamson
    Andrew Grant-Adamson 11 years ago .Reply

    If this is a communal effort, surely it is for the community to decide. Can’t you ask you contributors what they want? My guess is they will opt for some level of editing. And still on the editing point: was the lad three inches or two inches from disaster, and who wrote the headline?

  3. jeanne
    jeanne 11 years ago .Reply

    :page not found”; now i’m dying to read this!

  4. Steve
    Steve 11 years ago .Reply

    Bad link fixed. … After thinking it through (and comments here helped), I decided to do really light copy editing on the user’s submission. I do think it’s a service to fix typos for citizen content submissions. I will not get into making any substantial changes, but fixing the occasional misspelling and punctuation flaw is reasonable.

  5. Joel Fugazzotto
    Joel Fugazzotto 11 years ago .Reply

    I really like the idea behind what you and Derek are doing with the Enthusiast Group. The real key to getting people engaged is allowing them to share unhindered their passion, their stories, and their experiences with other members who have that same love for the sport or activity.

    I can see the usefulness of an automated spell checker for those who want to make use of it, but anything more and I think you start to take away what makes your idea so unique. It’s all about individuals sharing their stories and experiences, not about how well they spell or if their sentence structure is correct. The key is that their passion comes across to the rest of the group.

    An edit of a large community of submissions not only would be time consuming and expensive, but very easily could water down or homogenize the individual passions that drive the site. I’ve been in book publishing for many years and I’ve seen instances where a heavy edit can take away the personality of the author’s writing. I can understand editing content created by the Enthusiast Group team members, but I’d leave the community submissions alone. It won’t hurt the integrity of your sites. That’s my too sense. :-)

  6. Marshall Kirkpatrick
    Marshall Kirkpatrick 11 years ago .Reply

    Well put.

  7. Dave DeVries
    Dave DeVries 11 years ago .Reply

    I think every one over the age of ten should see the video. It is THE
    picture of justice. should we revel or take joy in the pictures? No, but
    we need to witness that there is judgement and justice for evil. Your
    desire to coddle the viewing public is why we\'re having this discussion.
    This soft underbelly of America is what emboldened terrorists around
    the world to begin with.
    As for my tax dollars at work, were is the coverage of the Iraqis who
    are happy to have us in thier country? There\'s only 90 % of them.
    That is good news though, the \"big three media giants\" won\'t hve any-
    thing to do with that.
    What is this new-media ethic you speak of ? I don\'t know
    wether to laugh or barff, are you enjoying a \"fat one\" ? Show me
    the application of justice every time.
    Long live the President.
    God Bless the United States of America.

  8. George Bush
    George Bush 11 years ago .Reply

    here is it :

  9. Jake Porter
    Jake Porter 11 years ago .Reply

    I believe we should let the free market decide. I posted the videos, and did so because I believe there was a demand for it, and it was very newsworthy.

  10. Steve
    Steve 11 years ago .Reply

    NO he is a monster and should be broad casted around the world at his worst moment. Let the world see it all!!!!

    SENSIBLE 11 years ago .Reply

    now we have sent him to the gallows let us prepair to be rewarded heavely with terror as his fanatics will reap revenge try telling our boys your thoughts when they are out there dam YOU BUSH DAM YOU YOU WANTED THE OIL YOU NEVER WENT TO UGANDA AS THEY HAD NOWT WORTH YOUR WHILE

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