The value of peer editing in daily local news reporting

Erin McPherson
6AM City
Published in
3 min readApr 11, 2022

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At 6AM City, our newsletter teams are staffed in 24+ cities across the country with two local City Editors. These on-the-ground journalists have a lot of editorial autonomy in their market and complete ownership over responding to timely news and events.

In addition to receiving high level feedback from regional managing editors, our City Editors — as a close-knit team of two — are also responsible for peer editing each other’s work daily in a fast-paced, relevancy-driven news cycle. To maintain consistency and identify areas for support, Managing Editors and editorial leadership reconnect with team members a few times a year to discuss best practices for providing meaningful peer edits on a daily basis.

“I always want to know whenever my writing is reading as dry, confusing, or boring,” said AVLtoday City Editor Laura Hackett during a recent conversation. “My peer editors help me inject more zest and clarity!

As part of our company’s ongoing conversation around peer editing, we’ve been able to identify the following shortlist of pro tips.

Here’s what peer editing is not:

• A chance to change the author’s point of view.
• A chance to rewrite content in your own voice (but brand voice is okay! For 6AM City Editors, that may mean injecting a more conversational tone).

Here’s what peer editing is:

• Time to cut the fluff (with what we call a “sharp knife”) and make it all concise.
• Time to make sure the meaning of each sentence is clear.
• Time to eliminate unnecessary words.
• Time to do grammar checks and eliminate unnecessary commas, typos, etc.
• Time to make recommendations for formatting and approach.
• Time to make recommendations for better, more engaging word choice.

What we’ve learned is that our writer-editor team members truly value and embrace feedback from peers — they are all working to refine their craft and level up content each and every day.

RICtoday City Editor Robin Schwartzkopf had this to say: “I appreciate when my peer editor also incorporates some fact-checking and copyediting. It makes me feel more secure that we’re always publishing accurate information, since we write so much content on a daily basis. It is also really valuable when a peer editor identifies a new area to spin off of — like adding a special section to our news product, or identifying a cool social media engagement opportunity that connects back to our stories.”

At 6AM City, peer editing is a major part of our company culture and what we regularly call “two-way feedback.” This means that everyone is open to receiving feedback and coaching at anytime, from anyone else in the company, and views it as a gift.

Ready to share some best practices with your team? Get started with these.

Tips for peer editors:

• If you have to read something twice, either the meaning is unclear or the structure is clunky. Go ahead and edit!

• If something doesn’t make sense to you (or you don’t understand a reference), it likely won’t make sense to readers. Make recommendations for clarity and better context.

• Bonus tip: Always explain the “why” behind your edits so your co-editor can learn from recommendations — this helps build trust.

Tips for writers:

• An edit from your peer editor is always worth a conversation — you don’t have to accept every edit, but you should be able to explain and defend why you’re rejecting feedback.

• Edits are not personal. All writers need editors. The more edits, the better. This is how we become better writers.

Additional reading:

Why every writer needs an editor
…Especially if they are also an editor

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Erin McPherson
6AM City

Managing Editor at 6AM City | Raleigh, NC | Writing, editing, and other wordplay