August 19, 2002

A headline that contradicts a photograph. A sea of gray text on an open newspaper page with no art. A comical illustration for a serious story.

These are just some of the journalistic missteps that result from a lack of integration and teamwork in the newsroom. And all are examples of what the Poynter Institute’s “WED” philosophy attempts to prevent.

WED is a philosophy of journalism, traditionally focusing on the print media, that provides the foundation for many Poynter seminars and conferences. It refers to the harmonious marriage of Writing, Editing and Design to produce a journalistic project that is more powerful than any one element in isolation.

The philosophy was first named in the mid-1980s by Dr. Mario Garcia of the Institute faculty, who first integrated it into Poynter seminars with Roy Peter Clark of the writing program. WED is discussed at length in Garcia’s textbook, Contemporary Newspaper Design (Prentice-Hall, 3rd ed., 1993) and is a common thread of his book, NewspaperEvolutions, published by the Institute in fall, 1996.

One common misconception about WED is that a journalist must become proficient in all three areas to do the best work possible. To the contrary, it is ideal to specialize in one particular area while understanding and learning the vocabulary of co-workers – or, as the Institute’s Pegie Stark Adam says, “bring open eyes and mind and heart to newsroom projects.”

Another misconception of WED is that the definition doesn’t include all areas of the newsroom, such as photo or library services. But the philosophy is meant to be all-inclusive, and breaks down like this:

  • The “W” comprises not only writing but reporting and research, of stories as well as headlines, subheads, captions, promos, and at-a-glance boxes.
  • the “E” comprises not only editing but coordinating and making sense of all the raw materials of journalism. This includes making connections among various parts of a news product, such as promos from the front page of a paper or links in an online service.
  • the “D” comprises not only design, but photography, art and illustration, color, typography, and informational graphics.

Some key elements of the WED process (adapted from a Poynter Institute handout by Ron Reason):

  • PLANNING for the future, to anticipate and make the most of potential developments in major news stories;
  • TEAMWORK to unite all areas of the news operation – writers, editors, photographers, copy editors, artists, designers – and to maximize the contributions of each;
  • COOPERATION among fellow journalists, to share knowledge as early as possible in the story process and to make the most efficient use of precious news holes;
  • RESPECT for your audience, and the realization that there is greater competition for their attention than ever before, and that this necessitates making the news report not only smarter but faster and easier to get through.

As new forms of journalism emerge, the concept of WED is evolving. For example, as newspapers develop online services and eventually consider adding video, the “design” category will be broadened. But the specific letters aren’t as important as the philosophy – planning a project from start to finish, using the talents of all newsroom staffers to their fullest, and presenting the information in the best way possible.

More WED Topics:
Hot tips for writing photo captions
Headline Display and Typographic Voice
Guide to Writing Headlines
Copy desk reorganization
Tips for managing pagination

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I am a fulltime consultant to news organizations around the world, currently working with clients in Chicago, Nairobi, and Manchester U.K. In addition, I serve…
Ron Reason

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