Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Ideas floated on Twitter: Article credits

I’ve been floating some ideas on Twitter lately, and wanted to get them down clearly in more than 140 characters.

I don’t think very many people outside the news industry realize how many people meddle in the run-of-the-mill article before it gets published.

Sometimes, multiple reporters are involved. An editor, maybe more than one. Copy editors. Headline writers. Production staff. Etc.

First, why might it benefit people to know who had a finger in the pie?

My instinctive response was to yell “TRANSPARENCY,” and leave it at that. But that’s not good enough without explaining how this particular transparency would be useful.

When I ran this idea by Twitter, I got several responses:

@greglinch “I wonder if crediting editors/copy editors would have any effect on the number of errors.”

@madshrew “Imagine a wire story. There could be upwards of 8-10 names on it by the time someone reads it. Not sure that would be fix.”

@westendorf “I don’t think it would be useful. I think it would only satisfy the egos of former copy editors, copy editors assns, etc.”

The first idea comes closest to my original train of thought. The purpose of transparency is accountability, and if copy editors (production staff, etc.) had to put their names on everything they edited, maybe there would be fewer errors.

The second is a design problem, for sure, but I think it can be solved.

Solutions proposed:

@greglinch “What if the names appeared at the end, similar to how contributors are listed?”


As for the ego issue, as unappreciated as copy editors etc. often feel, what’s wrong with a little ego boost?

There was a second motivation for the idea though: to increase the concept of journalism as a collaborative work, rather than an individual one.

As journalism becomes more participatory and collaborative, the trend is encouraged by giving credit to all who are involved in the process.

Related Reading:

What do you think?

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  1. Excellent thoughts Megan.

    And thanks for linking to my related articles. I have put more thought into notions of transparency and I think it's important not only for the reasons you mention above (holding people accountable) but also because it gets the public involved.

    Journalism is opaque. That's partly why the public can use it as a scapegoat so often.

    The more we are public about the process – the better the public can relate, get involved, etc.

  2. My biggest complaint is what I call GAPS. The story is obviously missing important facts that tie the other facts together. It drives me wild and I would like to send the responsible parties back to the 10th grade as the best alternative to physical violence. Maybe transparency would force the dimwits to think before they write.

  3. I think that is something to be solved by the “collaborative process” aspect. If people can participate in the process of journalism, then when you notice gaps or errors or have further questions, you should be able to pursue these issues with the reporter in a public manner.