How we edit and budget opinions
This is the third of four posts in which Spec Opinion explains how we receive, edit, and choose outside submissions for publication. Here, we explain which submissions get priority and the editing process they undergo before they are published in the paper.
When we receive an op-ed submission, it is assigned to an associate editor who makes edits and suggestions for grammar, style, and clarity. The associate also works with the writer to ensure that facts are correctly used and verifiable by reputable sources. From this point on, the assigned associate serves as the main point of contact between Spectator and the author of the submission.
The submission then goes to the editorial page editor, who assesses whether it conforms to Spectator guidelines and is fit to print. Most crucially, the editorial page editor ensures that the submission conforms to Spectator standards for Columbia relevance, time relevance, and readability. Once we ensure that a submission is fit for our coverage, the editorial page editor makes additional edits and suggestions for clarity of structure, readability, and style.
Once the editorial page editor finishes with her suggestions, it is sent back to the author via the associate. The author will have a deadline to assess the edits and suggestions and send back a second draft. All edits and suggestions are optional and the author has a right to reject most changes. While we usually prefer to come to agreement with the author over changes—especially for wording, fact use, and argument structure—edits for spelling, grammar, and style are generally insisted upon. For example, Spectator style uses “the University” or “Columbia,” never “Columbia University”—these edits are insisted upon.
Then comes the op-ed budgeting process. Depending on the drafts available to her, the editorial page editor will consider a submission’s quality and timeliness when deciding priority. A submission that makes a compelling, clear argument about a topic that is timely and relevant to a large audience will always print before a weaker submission. This process is not an exact science—rarely is one submission definitively better than another—and sometimes the decision is almost arbitrary.
Submissions are not just evaluated individually, but evaluated in the larger context of what might be published within the week. For example, if the editorial page editor has two drafts with different angles on Manhattanville—particularly opposing views—she will try to budget them for the same day.
Sometimes, the editorial page editor may inform the author that his submission will not be published. Usually this is because the submission is too untimely, not Columbia-relevant, or does not express an opinion.
The exact process of editing, budgeting, and publishing op-eds is often more nuanced as each submission is handled on a case by case basis. The above outline is our attempt to describe the process for a typical submission.
If you have any questions about how we edit and budget op-ed submissions, email us at email@example.com.