Clearly from the title, this article is aimed at assignment editors. But all journalists will do better at their job, if assignment editors focus more on writing. Yes, writing. They set the standard in most TV news rooms for source building and digging up exclusives. No one can complain about their workload when watching assignment editors hard at work. It’s no secret they are the glue that holds newsrooms together. That’s why assignment editors looking to really make their mark in this biz, need to write some of the news they find.
What many of us journalists forget is that assignment editors, by being the main information gatherers each and every day, really set the tone for how all of us write the news. After all, we write based on their notes in the assign queue. We ad lib based on information they share with us on the phone. We even depend on them for who is interviewed on a variety of subjects. One could argue that assignment editors have as much influence on the structure of newscasts as management does.
So why does that mean that assignment editors should write news copy, whenever they can? Because as veteran news writers know, practice is how you really learn to clearly decipher the facts necessary to write solid copy. You quickly figure out if you really understand a story, when you sit down to write it.
Since so many journalists hop into the queue for information, the way assignment editors write already bleeds into news copy. Think about it. I guarantee you rip off phrases under the slug file, especially if you are not a hundred percent sure about the facts and the assignment editor is too slammed to explain. It’s classic C.Y.A. mode. If the information comes into question later, you can say, “But that’s exactly how it is written in the assign queue.” Again, if I had a dollar for every time a journalist uttered that phrase!
By writing some news copy, assignment editors get a better understanding of what elements you truly need to write clearly and concisely. It should also help streamline the process, so the already stressed assignment editor is not getting phone calls asking to explain what’s in the queue. And when the calls do happen, the assignment editor may better understand why.
So assignment editors, if you want to really show off your stuff, write about some of it! You just might make other journalists in your shop stop and truly pay attention to what you have to say.