Editing & Layout

CMA 208 Editing and Layout

Dr. Elizabeth Atwood

Phone: 301-696-3231 (office); 410-788-4284 (home); e-mail: atwood@hood.edu

Office: 208 Rosenstock



Required texts


  • The Art of Editing in the Age of Convergence, by Brooks and Pinson, 9th edition
  • The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, 6th edition, by Tim Harrower
  • Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual
  • Workbook by Bertazzoni and Weinberg will be provided on Blackboard.



Student learning outcomes


The purpose of this course is to teach students the fundamentals of editing news copy, writing news headlines, cropping news photos, and laying out news pages. This course is a combination of lectures and in-class exercises. It is essential for students to attend class regularly, to ask questions frequently, and to participate in in-class discussions and exercises.


The course is divided into three main parts: editing, headline writing, and layout and design. Each aspect of the course builds on the previous segment. In the copy editing portion of the course, students learn to recognize the “holes” in a news story, to use correct grammar, spelling and word choice in news stories, and to use Associated Press style. In the headline writing part of the course, students learn to capture the heart of a story in as few words as possible. In the layout and design part of the course, students learn to use pictures and design techniques to make a news page look balanced and inviting. By the end of the class, students will be expected to produce an entire completed page, editing the stories, selecting and sizing the pictures correctly, laying out the page, and writing headlines that fit and say something.


Students should bring their stylebook every class.




We will be using Blackboard for this course. Make sure you check the Editing and Layout site regularly; it is where you will find workbook stories that I assign. I will also post the syllabus, information about assignments, and class announcements.  Class work, homework and tests must be submitted to Blackboard for grading.


Classroom courtesy

Be on time. You will lose attendance points for habitual tardiness.

I do not permit cell phone use in my class. Turn them off and put them away.



Learning to write and edit on deadline is essential to journalism. It is therefore imperative that you turn in assignments when due. I will deduct one letter grade per day for late assignments. If an assignment is four days late, you can earn no higher than 50 percent (F). Missed assignments will be scored at 0.


Assignments are due at the beginning of the class period. The syllabus provides plenty of notice when assignments are due.


Exceptions can be made for documented serious illnesses that require trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations, and notifications from the Dean of Students’ office regarding deaths in a family or other family crises. Athletes who will be missing class because of games are still required to submit assignments on time.



Test 1: 20 points

Test 2: 20 points

Final project: 40 points

Homework and Class Work: 20 points


Extra credit:

Good copy editors are always on duty. They automatically edit what they read in newspapers and on billboards and milk cartons, and what they hear on television and radio. Students may earn up to 5 points of extra credit for bringing in any errors they find in newspapers. They may not use the campus paper. Each error is worth 0.5 points.



About my grading system:

My system is simple: your grade is based on 100 points (possibly more if you do extra credit). Grades for all assignments will be posted in Blackboard. You start with 0 points and earn points as you do assignments. One point on a homework assignment or quiz might not seem like much, but it is 1 percent of your grade. If you fail to turn in 5 homework assignments and 5 class assignments, you’ve lost a letter grade. You should always know what your grade is in my class because all assignments and all grades are in Blackboard. Divide the points received by points possible and you have your grade. Note: I do not use percentages, but points. I try to grade papers within a week of your submitting them. If you do not see a grade for an assignment you believe you have submitted, ask. It is your responsibility to keep track of your assignments.



Attendance policy

Because a large portion of your grade will be based on in-class work, you are expected to attend all class meetings.  However, I recognize that there may be occasions when due to illness, family emergency or other personal reasons, or on occasion of required attendance at athletic or cultural events, students may be unable to attend class. If absences become excessive, you will lose points. It is your responsibility to notify me in advance if possible, and to make arrangements to obtain material missed in class. If any personal or health problems occur during the semester, see me about arranging extra help before getting behind on assignments.


Inclement Weather

 Snow happens. In the event that our class must be canceled because of school closing or a delayed opening, you will still be responsible for the assigned readings. Be sure to check Blackboard because I may present alternative lectures or assignments.



Course basics

  1. Complete the reading assignments before the class day for which they are assigned.


  1. Late assignments will be penalized, and missing assignments will receive a grade of zero. Students “on the edge” will not be given the benefit of the doubt if their assignments have been consistently late and their attendance has been consistently poor.


  1. Students are responsible for knowing about any changes on the syllabus. They will be posted on Blackboard.


  1. Bring your iPads to class each day. We will be looking at newspaper websites as well as print editions.


  1. Bring your stylebooks and textbooks to class each day.


  1. An excellent web site for help with writing and grammar is the Online Writing Lab at Perdue University. The site contains a number of exercises designed to help you with grammar, punctuation and spelling. The exercises may be found at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar



Academic Dishonesty

Hood College has an honor system. Remember to write the pledge on all assignments and tests. Plagiarism, cheating, and/or fabrication are academic dishonesty and will not be tolerated. They will result in a grade of zero for the assignment, and you may be turned in to the Academic Judicial Council.





Students with physical, psychological, or learning disabilities must be registered with the college’s Disability Services Coordinator. The coordinator will help you prepare a plan for services and will forward authorization for the specified services to class instructors. Please contact me early in the semester to provide the necessary documentation, and to arrange for appropriate accommodations on exams.


Center for Academic Achievement and Retention (CAAR):


The CAAR office is located on the third floor of Rosenstock Hall and provides a wide range of academic supports for all students.  Services range from math and writing tutoring to individualized one-on-one meetings to discuss any barriers that might prevent you from reaching your full academic potential.  If you ever need help, feel free to stop by.  We won’t always have all the answers, but we will definitely work with you to try to help you find the supports that you need.


Disability Services:


The Disability Services office provides academic support for students with disabilities.  Examples of disabilities include, but are not limited to, mobility impairments, blindness/low vision, psychiatric conditions, recurring medical conditions, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and others.  The following are examples of academic accommodations:

  • Extended time on exams
  • Note-taking support
  • Textbooks in alternative formats (electronic, audio, etc.)
  • ASL interpreting services

If you have a documented disability and are interested in finding out more about academic accommodations, please contact Lauren Reis, the Disability Services Coordinator, by e-mail at reis@hood.edu, by phone at (301) 696-3421, or by visiting CAAR.



Course schedule

(Readings should be done before class)


Jan. 20:  Introduction: The Role of the Editor


Jan. 22:  Understanding the audience. Read Brooks and Pinson (B&P), chapters 1 & 2.


Jan. 27: The editing process & leads (B&P, chapters 3 & 4)  


Jan. 29: Macro Editing, cont’d–Organization. (B&P, chapter 4)


Feb. 3:  Macro Editing, cont’d. –Accuracy


Feb. 5:  Legal issues (B&P, chapter 5, AP Libel Manual)


Feb. 10:  Ethics.


Feb. 12: TEST ONE


Feb. 17:  Editing for grammar. (B&P, chapter 6)


Feb. 19: Editing for AP style.  Bring your stylebook to class.


Feb. 24:  Holistic editing—hard-news stories (B&P, chapter 7).


Feb. 26: Holistic editing—feature stories, columns and opinion pieces


March 3:  Wire stories—(B&P, chapter 10, 293–308).


March 5:  Editing for the Web (B&P, chapter 12)


March 10 & 12:  NO CLASS. SPRING BREAK.


March 17: Writing headlines. (B&P, chapter 8, Harrower, 27–29)

Final project assigned.


March 19: More on headline writing.


March 24:  TEST TWO


March 26:  Introduction to photo editing. (B&P, chapter 9, and Harrower, Introduction and chapters 1 & 4)


March 31:  Photo spreads.


Apri 2: Introduction to design. (B&P, chapter 308–317; Harrower, chapter 2)


April 7: Layout of a front page. (Harrower, chapters 3 & 5)


            Edited stories for final project due.


April 9:   Page One layout, continued


April 14:  Layout of inside pages.


            Page one layout and headlines for final project due.


April 16: Basics of InDesign


April 21: Graphics and sidebars. (B&P chapter 9; Harrower, chapter 6)


April 23: Special effects. (Harrower, chapter 7)


April 28: How is the Web different. (Harrower, chapter 9)


April 30: Editor as coach and leader (B&P, chapters 15–16).





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