Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Become a Better Editor. Bake a Better Cake!

  • S: (v) edit, redact (prepare for publication or presentation by correcting, revising, or adapting) "Edit a book on lexical semantics"; "she edited the letters of the politician so as to omit the most personal passages"
  • S: (v) edit (supervise the publication of) "The same family has been editing the influential newspaper for almost 100 years"
  • S: (v) edit, cut, edit out (cut and assemble the components of) "edit film"; "cut recording tape"
  • S: (v) edit, blue-pencil, delete (cut or eliminate) "she edited the juiciest scenes"
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you're well aware that there are these services on the Web - one is called Google, the other is Bing - that exist to help us make decisions. Whether it's buying a new car, meeting a new beau, giving money away or keeping it in the bank, search engines play a huge role in how we currently learn, shop and navigate the world.

These services are great because they serve up a sea of information but - and hears the rub - too often the information they generate is not molded, organized or aggregated in any particular way and that makes it unnerving and annoying. In short, way too much!

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather go to Google than my local library to look up a fact and it's an amazing privilege to have "the world at your fingertips." But like they said in Schoolhouse Rock - Knowledge is Power.

Knowledge is not the same thing as information. Knowledge is about making meaning out of all these data points about dragons, duct tape and donations. And although some software companies will say otherwise, it's my humble opinion that it still takes a person to sort, sift and contextualize all this material. It takes an Editor to bake an information cake!

Luckily, some nonprofits are good editors (and bakers too!). After all, we are the experts on myriad subjects. We know how to avoid environmental degradation, raise healthy and happy kids, and keep international conflict at bay. Who better than us to "organize the world's information?"

Here's my advice. If you want to ensure that your nonprofit has a place at the table in the Connected Age, become a better editor. Don't just serve up information, serve up the most useful links about your cause. Point out the inconsistencies (and consistencies) in the news stories we read. Create a coherent narrative out of the reams of research out here.

I promise. If you learn to edit well, you'll become the trusted source for KNOWLEDGE about your issue and that means more power (and icing) for you!



Claudia Zorn Schaefer said...

Jocelyn, you've really captured how to create value online. Going to share your post with my colleagues on the board of The Women's Fund of Winston Salem (www.womensfundws.org). Thanks!

Julia said...

I used to work as a writer for a PR agency, and my editor-in-chief always used to say, "Ok, you've written the piece, now it's time to put on your editor hat." Which meant stepping back, ignoring that you wrote the piece, and viewing your work with as critical and objective an eye as possible.

I think this is especially important in the nonprofit sector, where program people are often writing their own copy, and as a result get too in the weeds about their project details. You raise a great point when you say we NPs should organize the info -- now what really sends it soaring is making it relatable.

Thanks for a good post, Jocelyn!