The Desk



Strong, engaged editing desks are critical to the success of our file and desks help drive the file working with the news editors.

There is no room on our editing desks for those who do not have ideas, and there is no room in our bureaus for reporters who do not accept constructive ideas, guidance and feedback. We’re all on the same team.

Desk editors must also see themselves, and reporters must see desk editors, as facilitators in a collaborative process, ensuring that value is added to our reporting resources. A good copy editor is a mentor for less experienced reporters. A great copy editor “coaches” rather than just “fixes”.

The desk should provide an outsider’s perspective that can be useful to reporters, who can sometimes become too close to a story, assume too much knowledge of the reader, or miss the regional or cross-sector implications of a news development. This means desk editors, like reporters, need to be familiar with the main stories of the day by following the Reuters file as well as other media.

Desk editors must ensure that stories are prioritized, that they read easily and logically, are properly sourced, convey the significance of the news, and are fair so Reuters is not exposed to legal dangers.

Typos, grammar and minor changes may be corrected or improved without reference to reporters but significant changes to the factual content, interpretation, or structure of a story must be referred to the reporter before the story is published if possible. Failure to do so puts the desk editor at risk of adding errors to stories.

Desk editors are also the guardians of Reuters procedures and principles so the regional desks have the final say on metadata like coding, slugging and story formats.

These are some of the main desk functions:

Tasting/Slot Editing

A "taster" or "slot editor" performs a traffic control function, assessing incoming copy, giving priority to urgent news, assigning stories to copy editors according to the news plan or copy editor specialization, and ensuring consistency in the handling of the story. Tasters also help to monitor news from other media to alert reporters or bureaus of developments,

The taster or slot editor decides which stories can be published quickly with little extra work, which need some attention from a copy editor, and sometimes which stories are obviously so problematic they need referral back to the reporter.

A taster needs to be good with Reuters technology and have a sound understanding of Reuters meta data like coding, slugging and story formats, as well as corrections procedures. Where possible the taster should check slugs, coding and story formats before assigning the story to a copy editor.

Alerts and Newsbreaks which can be quickly published are checked for accuracy, fairness, typos, grammar and format and published by the taster. Longer stories or stories which need more work are transferred to a copy editor.

To ensure consistency, tasters should try to assign stories to copy editors who are familiar with the subject matter, or who have handled earlier updates to running stories, or who have been assigned top stories by desk chiefs.

Sub-editing or Copy Editing

Copy editing often involves a four stage process.

First, the copy editor reads the story to ensure the basic journalistic questions are answered - Who? What? When? Where? Why? Whither (what is the significance or implications of the latest news) ?

This may involve checking key facts and numbers, ensuring that relevant comparisons are included to establish proportion, resolving factual or logical contradictions, and looking for connections or trends to establish significance.

It may also involve relocating a buried lead, or buried sourcing, or buried context that explains the significance of the story, or rewriting the headline, so the story overall reads easily and logically.

Second, the copy editor should ensure the story is well sourced or that analysis is supported with data, quotes and logical argument. No Reuters story should leave the reader wondering, "how does Reuters know this?" (see separate section on sourcing guidelines).

Third, the copy editor checks the story for typos and grammar, runs spellcheckers, and checks the maths.

Fourth, if the slot editor or taster has not already done so, the copy editor should attend to metadata issues - slugs, pix, product and topic codes, RICs, Named Item codes, datelines, sign offs etc.

Check the keyword slug to see if it matches the entry in NewsPlanner, or ask the reporter to create a Newsplanner entry if the story is likely to be updated. News handled by means of alerts, briefs, urgents or a short update only do not need a newsplanner entry.

Check on availability of commissioned or file photos or graphics and note in the slug field.


To meet the speed needs of real time desktop and media clients, desk editors should seek to fix early updates in a series quickly if possible by either deleting problematic copy or writing around it and publishing the story. Then they should go back to the reporter with suggestions for improving the next update. Reporters who update stories should work from edited copy. That way, the desk editor will only have to check any changes or additions rather than re-edit the whole story.

Sometimes on a big fast moving story involving several reporters, desk editors may be asked to write the "trunk" story, by rewriting spot stories, newsbreaks and sidebars into one comprehensive update or wrapup.


The copy editor is usually the publisher also and so should check the meta data to ensure the story reaches all clients who need it in the format they need it. The regional desks have the final say on metadata. Finally the desk editor must check to ensure the story actually landed on the relevant products or platforms. Where a desk editor has done a full rewrite of the story, it is good practice to ask another desk editor to provide a second pair of eyes and publish the story.

Bureau support

Desk editors also play a role in the news planning process, contacting reporters ahead of time in the case of expected stories, offering ideas to improve stories, and working to coordinate the newsbreaks, sidebars and updates.

Where possible the same copy editor should handle a full update series so they know the issues, but copy editors taking over a trunk story should take care to "read in" to minimize the chances of introducing errors.

Desk editors may also be asked to write breaking news updates, wrapups or news summaries, as well as monitor news sources such as web sites and broadcasters to support reporting teams and bureaus.

Product management and Media Schedules

Desks have a product management role also. In addition to checking that stories published have been received by the target audience, they are responsible for corrections and such presentation items such as advisories and take-a-looks as well as Media Schedules.

Compiling Media Schedules:

Skedlines should be presented in clear, unabbreviated English (see updated Skedlines entry in handbook)

PIX, VIDEO, GRAPHIC notes belong in the SLUG, as they would appear in the story header

TIME must always be in GMT using the 24 hour clock. For schedules produced in the U.S., must add the time in AP style e.g. 1430 GMT / 10.30am EDT

Schedule editor, picture desk, graphic desk and TV contacts all go at the bottom of the schedule and should be updated by region.

All schedules should be built from templates in the Global-Schedules-Templates directory to ensure homogeny.

Schedule sections must be noted with double-indents. “See also:” sections must have a space after “+” and “-“.

Corrections MUST be noted on any stories that are skedded and are subsequently corrected. Notation should be made thus: (IRAN-ATTACK/ (WRAPUP 2, PIX, TV), moved, by Joe M. Bloggs, 670 words – note to editors: WRAPUP 1 was CORRECTED at 1322 GMT)

Changes to previously scheduled information should be handled as corrections are: (IRAN-ATTACK/ (WRAPUP 2, TV), moved, by Joe M. Bloggs, 670 words – note to editors: PIX indicated in WRAPUP 1 skedline are not available)

SPECIAL REPORTS can be included on media schedules, but not all media subscribers receive them. So note in a SPECIAL REPORT skedline as below: (CHINA-PHARMACEUTICALS/(SPECIAL REPORT, PIX, GRAPHIC), subscribers to Special Reports expect by 1600, by Melanie Lee and Ben Hirschler, 2,300 words)


   (All times GMT)
   Isaac near hurricane force off U.S. Gulf Coast
   NEW ORLEANS - Tropical Storm Isaac nears hurricane force and closes in on the U.S. Gulf Coast and New Orleans. It is expected to make landfall in the New Orleans area, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. (STORM/ISAAC (UPDATE 4, TV, PIX), moving shortly, by Scott Malone and Kathy Finn, 900 words)
   + See also:
   - STORM-ISAAC/FEMA, moved, pix, by Mark Felsenthal and Lisa Lambert, 700 words
   - STORM-ISAAC/CROPS, moved, 400 words 
   Court clears Israeli army over death of U.S. activist
   HAIFA, Israel - An Israeli court clears Israel's military of any blame over he death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an  army bulldozer during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza.

(PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/CORRIE (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV), moved, by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, 560 words)

   U.S. Republicans showcase Romney as storm clouds convention
   TAMPA, Fla - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney flies to Tampa to join fellow Republicans seeking to put their shortened convention back on track and prevent his message from being drowned out by a tropical storm churning toward the Gulf Coast (USA-CAMPAIGN/(UPDATE 1, PIX, TV), expect by 1500, by Matt Spetalnick, 900 words)
   + See also:
   - USA-CAMPAIGN/CONVENTION (FACTBOX), moved, 800 words 
   New Egypt leader steps out on world stage
   CAIRO - Egypt's new Islamist president says he will pursued a "balanced" foreign policy, reassuring Israel its peace treaty is safe, hinting at a new approach to Iran and calling on Bashar al-Assad's allies to help lever the Syrian leader out. (EGYPT-PRESIDENT/ (EXCLUSIVE, PIX, TV), moved, by Marwa Awad and Patrick Werr, 1,180 words)
   + See also:
   - EGYPT-PRESIDENT/ECONOMY (EXCLUSIVE, PIX, TV), moved, by Marwa Awad and Patrick Werr, 753 words 
   Fighting in Damascus as Syria refugee flow accelerates
   AMMAN - Syrian army units shell southern districts of Damascus after heavy overnight fighting around the capital, part of a wave of violence that has accelerated an exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries.  SYRIA-CRISIS/ (WRAPUP 2, PIX, TV), expect by 1530, by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, 800 words) 
   + See also:
   - SYRIA-CRISIS/BOMB (UPDATE 1), moved, 300 words
   Three killed in Kenya's Mombasa riots after Muslim cleric slain
   MOMBASA, Kenya - Two Kenyan police officers and a civilian are killed when rioters hurl a grenade at officers who are trying to quell protests in  the port city of Mombasa in a second day of violence ignited by the killing of a Muslim cleric. (KENYA-RIOTS/ (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV), moving shortly,  by Joseph Akwiri, 820 words)    
                  MIDDLE EAST
   Big radiation risk unlikely if Israel strikes Iran 
   OSLO/VIENNA - Any Israeli attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities are unlikely to cause a Fukushima-scale disaster unless a Russian-built reactor is destroyed, experts say. (IRAN-NUCLEAR-ENVIRONMENT/  UPDATE 1), moving shortly, by Alister Doyle and Fredrik Dahl, 1,000  words)
   "Galley slave" Putin savours yachts, planes, palaces, critics say
   MOSCOW - Vladimir Putin once compared ruling Russia to being

a "galley slave", but four yachts that come with the job, not to mention palaces, aircraft and a wealth of luxury perks help explain his refusal to quit the presidency, leading critics say. (RUSSIA-PUTIN/PERKS UPDATE 1, TV, PIX), moving shortly, by Steve Gutterman, 1,280 words)

   Russian eco-warrior turns to politics to challenge Putin  
   KHIMKI, Russia - Russian environmentalist and protest leader Yevgeniya Chirikova is challenging President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party by running for mayor in a town outside Moscow, part of an opposition bid to chip away at his authority  by winning local elections  RUSSIA-CHIRIKOVA/ (PIX, TV), moved, by Gabriela Baczynska, 1,100  words)
   Colombian government seeking peace with FARC rebels 
   BOGOTA - Colombia's government is seeking peace with the country's biggest rebel group, the FARC, and could consider also holding talks with a second guerrilla movement to end five decades of war, says president Juan Manuel Santos. (COLOMBIA-REBELS/FARC (UPDATE 6, PIX, TV), moved, by Helen Murphy, 945 words) 
   + See also: 
   - COLOMBIA-REBELS/ELN (EXCLUSIVE, UPDATE 1, PIX, TV), moved, by Luis Jaime Acosta and Helen Murphy, 1,222 words
               SPECIAL REPORT
   China’s “wild east” drug store 
   Four years ago, Beijing promised to clean up its act following the deaths of at least 149 Americans who received contaminated Chinese supplies of the blood-thinner heparin. But an examination by Reuters has found that unregulated Chinese chemical companies making active pharmaceutical ingredients are still selling their products on the open  market with few or no checks (CHINA-PHARMACEUTICALS/ (SPECIAL  REPORT, PIX, GRAPHIC), subscribers to Special Reports expect by 1600, by Melanie Lee and Ben Hirschler, 2,300 words)
   Editor: Angus MacSwan            + 44 207 542 7918
   Picture Desk: Singapore          + 65 6870 3775
   Graphics queries:                + 65 6870 3595

Direct injection

Most English language stories are filed through one of the main editing desks.

With the permission of the relevant regional desk head, designated staff in bureaus and on reporting teams may self-publish or "direct inject" Alerts, using Lynx Editor, Lynx Alerting or Wire Engine software, as well as Urgents as part of the breaking news drill where speed is of the essence given the copy may be market moving.

Under no circumstances may a reporter publish a story directly to clients without a “second pair of eyes”, preferably a senior reporter or EIC or bureau chief.

Corrections to any directly injected items should also be handled by the regional desk.

Permission for direct injecting, and training in coding and publishing procedures for direct injection to the wires, must be obtained from the relevant regional desk head. As a general rule, anything beyond a Brief or Urgent must be filed by an editing desk.

The regional editing desk retains overall responsibility for the quality of any self-published or directly injected items and publishing rights may be removed from reporters who abuse them or do not use them with proper skill.

Filing your story to the desk

Some simple checks before sending your story for editing that will help move your story through an editing desk more quickly:

  • Re-read the story – Before sending copy to a desk, reporters should re-read their story, particularly the lead, to ensure that all important information is at the top, including context that explains the story’s significance. RICs should be checked. A check should also be made for typos and grammatical errors.
  • Use a second pair of eyes – Ask a colleague in your bureau to read the story carefully to ensure that it is adequately sourced, accurate and fair, and written as concisely as possible. Your colleague must be critical. Most errors or problems can be caught in the bureau.
  • Involve your bureau chief or an editor in charge in problem stories – Problematic stories should be copyedited by a senior reporter, bureau charge or editor in charge.
  • In Lynx Editor software, the story is moved to a desk or bureau by using the TRANSFER button at the top of the Lynx Editor screen and choosing an option from the dropdown menu to move a story to a desk TASTE basket. There is also a keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + T will send the story to your default transfer basket or Alt+ T will open the dropdown menu.
  • Make sure you are available to handle queries – After filing the story, remain available to handle queries from the desk. If you must leave the bureau before your story is handled, make sure to provide a contact phone number.
  • Send a Skedline – If you plan to advance a story, file a skedline. Try to send sidebars, Updates etc. to same filing desk as original story – this helps improve co-ordination.

Filing to Desk

In Lynx Editor, reporters file to a regional editing desk by using the TRANSFER button to send the story to the desk e.g. EMEA-P&G-TASTE or AMERS-REASURY-TASTE.

Even if permissioned for access to editing desk TASTE or EDIT baskets, reporters should NOT open a story in edit mode in an editing desk taste basket as it prevents editors from handling the story in a timely way and often causes confusion on busy desks.

If a reporter needs a story returned, he/she should screentop or phone the desk and ask for it to be sent back to his/her reporting team or bureau edit basket to work on. In Lynx Editor, stories cannot be returned to a reporter's personal basket as there is only one live version at any time.

Desk hours of operation

Reporters must be aware of desk hours of operation and their key telephone numbers. Desk staffers should be aware of operating hours of desks in other regions and key contact phone numbers.

The fastest way to contact editing desks is to use the screentop messaging system in Lynx Editor. However, email is acceptable also.

Black hole filing

Method 1

  • Write story in MS Word or Notepad or some such
  • Log in with the username you have been given for the purpose
  • Fill in address code(s), slug, headline. Note: You cannot file to the wire, only to a taste or service basket
  • Cut and paste story into story field (You can write directly in the story field itself, but if the connection is lost for any reason, the story will not be saved)
  • Transmit

Method 2

  • Open your personal e-mail account (Hotmail or Gmail or whatever) and write the story in the compose mail page.
  • The subject field should be the address code YLP (or YAS, YEH, LCE, LCF etc) space # space BC-SLUG (and all in caps). For example: YLP # BC-MANCHUKISTAN. If you want to send it to more than one code: YLP PAR ISL # BC-MANCHUKISTAN
  • Send the story to

It should appear in a taste or service basket in a minute or so. If you there is a mistake in the code or format, you will get a message from Reuters Blackhole Filing telling you what is wrong.

The most common errors are omitting the space between the codes, between the codes and hash sign, or the space between the hash sign and the slug, and not putting it all in caps.

If you are in a place with poor comms, write the story in MS Word or Notepad offline, log into your e-mail and then cut and paste the story into the compose mail page.

For more on Black hole filing, see:

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