News

Copy Desk: Local 2202's Newsletter Gets the Copy Desk Treatment

This month, we’ve revised a story from Local 2202’s CWA Voice, the subject of our first “Extreme Makeover: Newsletter Edition.”

For our first project, we’ve done some editing to tighten an important story and make it a little more reader-friendly. The original story is 390 words; the edited version is 275, but all the essential information is included.

The original story and edited version are both posted in full below, then there’s a paragraph-by-paragraph edited version with explanations of the changes made. Note: The quotes in the revised story are presented only as examples of how quotes can illuminate a story and what type of quote would help make this particular story’s point. They are not the actual words of Local 2202’s president.

The original story:

Retail Members Made Whole in Verizon Settlement

An enormous victory for several Verizon Retail (business office) members came about with the intervention of CWA District 2 leadership combined with the collective efforts of Locals across the former Bell Atlantic footprint. In answer to an executive-level grievance, a settlement has been reached providing full back pay and reinstatement according to the LOU on page 180 of the CBA for several members who were alleged to have accessed customer accounts without a business reason. In addition, the settlement includes provisions to remove permanent warnings from the personnel files of those employees who were alleged to have accessed customer records. According to Verizon, employees who accessed customer account records without a “gain” received a warning while those employees who were alleged to have gained from accessing customer records were separated from employment. Hence, 32 employees across CWA District 2 were terminated and approximately 228 received permanent warnings.

Haphazard company investigations began in December on retail employees across VA, WVA, MD who had allegedly violated the company’s business code of conduct by accessing customer account records. Many of the accusations were for incidents that occurred as far back 2002. Some incidents were cases where according to a known practice, and possibly a district-wide practice, employees were allowed with prior authorization from management to access another employee’s account in order to add features or make certain changes in effort to keep sales within a particular call center. It turned out that after very poor company investigations that disciplinary actions were taken in early March resulting in one of the largest company-created labor catastrophes that CWA District 2 had seen.

Pre-grievance attempts by the company offering to settle by removing warnings within 6 months from employees files resulted in mass chaos as the company failed to make the persons receiving warnings accessible as agreed in order that the union could offer the proposed company settlement.

Ultimately, under the executive-level settlement agreement, 54 persons within our Local will have their warnings removed and 6 employees within our Local have been reinstated to their consultant positions and have been made whole. Under the settlement, any employee whose alleged action(s) occurred prior to 1-1-07 and was not deemed as blatant fraud would be provided protection under the agreement. All other disciplinary actions resulting from the company’s so-called investigation would be dealt with through the grievance procedure.

The revised version:

Verizon Retail Settlement
Huge Win Restores Many Workers’ Jobs, Reputations

In an enormous victory, 60 members of Local 2202 at Verizon Retail business offices have prevailed against the company’s chaotic and mishandled investigation of alleged code of conduct violations.

Under a settlement agreement, six Local 2202 members who were fired will be reinstated with full back pay and 54 members will have warnings removed from their personnel files.

Members were accused of accessing customer accounts without a business reason. Across District 2, Verizon fired 32 CWA members and put warnings in 228 members’ files.

CWA District 2 leaders and locals across the former Bell Atlantic region worked together to fight Verizon’s charges with an executive-level grievance. Under the settlement, any employee whose alleged action occurred before Jan. 1, 2007, and was not deemed as “blatant fraud” would be protected. All other disciplinary actions resulting from the company’s investigation would be dealt with through the grievance procedure.

“This so-called investigation tarred a lot of dedicated, loyal workers with unjust charges and we’re pleased that we’ve reached a settlement that restores not just their jobs but their good names,” Local President Louie Scinaldi said.

Haphazard company investigations into account access began in December on retail employees across Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Many accusations dated as far back as 2002. Some incidents involved a well known practice by which employees were allowed, with prior authorization from management, to access another worker’s account. The purpose was to add features or make other changes in an effort to keep sales within a particular call center.

The company took disciplinary actions in early March, resulting in what Scinaldi called “one of the largest company-created labor catastrophes that CWA District 2 had seen.”

Step-by-step:

Verizon Retail Settlement
Huge Win Restores Many Workers’ Jobs, Reputations

EXPLAINER: Using a “kicker” headline is a great way to get more information into a hed (another piece of newspaper shorthand). If you’re trying to put a banner hed on your publication and you just can’t seem to cut enough words to make it fit, try making a few key words the kicker, as we’ve done with “Verizon Retail Settlement.”

In an enormous victory, 60 members of Local 2202 at Verizon Retail business offices have prevailed against the company’s chaotic and mishandled investigation of alleged code of conduct violations.

EXPLAINER: The original story says “several” members were victorious but in the last paragraph of that story, it says six members were reinstated and 54 had warnings removed from their files. Let’s put the big number up front. The edited lede uses fewer words but gives more information about what happened.

The first paragraph of the original story needed to be broken up into smaller grafs (as they say in the business).

Under a settlement agreement, six members who were fired will be reinstated with full back pay and 54 members will have warnings removed from their personnel files.

EXPLAINER: The second graf offers more specific and important details.

A note on numbers: Numbers one through nine are spelled out; bigger numbers are presented as numerals.

Members were accused of accessing customer accounts without a business reason. Across District 2, Verizon fired 32 CWA members and put warnings in 228 members’ files.

EXPLAINER: The original story talks about Verizon firing people who “gained” from allegedly accessing the system, and warning those who didn’t gain. This is a little confusing. How did people gain, or how does Verizon allege they gained? Without a tiny bit of clarification, it’s probably OK to leave this out.

CWA District 2 leaders and locals across the former Bell Atlantic region worked together to fight Verizon’s charges with an executive-level grievance. Under the settlement, any employee whose alleged action occurred before Jan. 1, 2007, and was not deemed as “blatant fraud” would be protected. All other disciplinary actions resulting from the company’s investigation would be dealt with through the grievance procedure.

EXPLAINER: The second and third sentences were originally in the last graf of the story but seemed to fit better here as further explanation of the grievance settlement. “Blatant fraud” is a loaded phrase that we’re assuming was used in the agreement itself. If so, use quotation marks as indicated. The date was originally left to just numbers (1-1-07), but proper style is to use the month (abbreviated, except for April, May, June and July) and the dates as specified above. It’s easier on the readers’ eyes.

In the original story, at about this point, there’s a reference to the “LOU” on page 180 of the “CBA.” Abbreviations are tricky. CBA is collectively bargaining agreement, but not all members are going to know that. We’re still not sure what LOU is. Only use widely accepted and understood abbreviations (like CWA). If a reader doesn’t understand, he or she just might stop reading.

“This so-called investigation tarred a lot of dedicated, loyal workers with unjust charges and we’re pleased that we’ve reached a settlement that restores not just their jobs but their good names,” Local President Louie Scinaldi said.

EXPLAINER:  The phrase “so-called” was originally inserted into “the company’s so-called investigation” without any attribution. No doubt there’s reason to question the validity of the investigation but it’s better to do so by quoting someone, than by throwing a subjective phrase into a hard-news paragraph. So, perhaps Local President Louie Scinaldi might have said something like the made-up quote above.

You might ask, then why use words like “chaotic” and “mishandled” in the lede, the first paragraph. Isn’t that editorializing, too? Yes, but there’s a little bit more wiggle room in the lede paragraph as long as you back up the assertions made with facts and quotes in the body of the story.

Haphazard company investigations into account access began in December on retail employees across Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Many accusations dated as far back as 2002. Some incidents involved a well known practice by which employees were allowed, with prior authorization from management, to access another worker’s account. The purpose was to add features or make other changes in an effort to keep sales within a particular call center.

EXPLAINER: Breaking up the sentence about the well-known practice into two sentences works better to make it a bit less confusing. It’s still a bit confusing to a non-telephone company reader, though it may make perfect sense to Local 2202 members. If you have any doubts about what your audience might understand, always clarify. For instance, this practice might be commonly understood by business center workers but not by technicians, who are also your readers.

Minor detail: The original story said VA, MD, WV. States are always spelled out, unless they follow the name of a city. In which case – and this can be confusing – newspaper style calls for abbreviations that are some somewhat different from the Postal Service. For instance: Richmond, Va., is correct for newspapers. So is Baltimore, Md., and Charleston, W.Va. The Associated Press style book, mentioned in the Extreme Makeover, is a handy guide to all sorts of proper abbreviations.

The Copy Desk is a step-by-step guide to writing and editing.

If you’d like to suggest a project for The Copy Desk or have writing or editing questions, please contact writer/editor Janelle Hartman in the CWA communications office at Jhartman@cwa-union.org or (202) 434-1162.

The company took disciplinary actions in early March, resulting in what Scinaldi called “one of the largest company-created labor catastrophes that CWA District 2 had seen.”

EXPLAINER: We’re putting words in Scinaldi’s mouth again, but these are the kind of comments that really demand attribution. The words themselves were the same in the original story, but they carry more weight with attribution.

The story could end there. Most of the last paragraph has been absorbed into the body of the story. The second-to-last graf is confusing and is probably unnecessary.

Writing is a subjective exercise and what we’ve done to revise the above story isn’t necessarily right or wrong. It’s just one way to make a story a little sharper, a little shorter and perhaps a little easier for the reader to follow.

If you have editing questions, feel free to contact Janelle Hartman in the CWA Communications Office at Jhartman@cwa-union.org or (202) 434-1162.