Editorial Workflow

To provide a more comprehensive understanding of our complete online editorial process, we have provided a detailed breakdown of each step below.

January 1, 2022

To provide a more comprehensive understanding of our complete online editorial process, we have provided a detailed breakdown of each step below.

The following procedures must be adhered to by the writing and online editorial teams to ensure optimal content production:

Step 1: Ideation

The process of generating ideas actually starts in the Slack #ed-online-editorial channel and the Airways Magazine (writers) Trello Board. These platforms serve as spaces where editors can contribute and assign stories based on the day's schedule. They also serve as platforms for writers to present story pitches to editors for initial approval.

In the Slack #online-editorial channel, discussions take place regarding the content, focusing on various aspects such as the story's relevance, newsworthiness, the desired voice, tone, and angle, as well as the credibility of sources and whether the information is factual or speculative, among other considerations.

Slack #ed-online-editorial channel where the editorial team discusses and pitches breaking or noteworthy news items

Typically, this involves doing a bit of preliminary research to develop a pitch to be included in the available articles listed on the Trello board. We must include the following:

  • A working title: Our pitch titles are usually optimized for search engines with embedded target keywords, an appropriate character length for search results, and compelling descriptors. The more well-developed the title is, the easier it is for our audience to understand what the article is about. It’s the difference between “Five Things to Do After an Accident” and “Five Crucial Actions You Need to Take After a Water Landing.” Which one would you want in your story?
  • A short title: There should also be a word limit of six, and the title must describe in general terms what the story is about without being overly specific in a way that discourages readers from clicking. For example, "Delta Buys 150 Airbus A320s for US$3 Billion" can be replaced by "Delta to Place Major Airbus A320 Order." Also, the use of infinitives is encouraged when possible in the headlines.
  • A brief description: While this would be included in the source article link that is shared or in the discussions about the news in the editorial group, it stands to reason that this is just a preview of the topic that includes an overview of salient details that will be covered as well as the internal logical structure of a story. It should answer: So what? Why should our readers care? What can they do with this information?
  • Potential source material: The source material and weblinks can range from previous stories from Airwaysmag.com (backlinks) or competing content that we are trying to outrank in search by providing original insights, original data, and more useful information to the audience. The source material comes up naturally in the initial research process and provides more context for the story.

A pitch can easily be tweaked before the much more time-consuming processes of writing and editing. Also, getting helpful, insightful feedback from the editorial team can result in a much better final product.

Airways Magazine (Writers) Trello Board showing the online editorial workflow

Step 2: Pitching Stories

Editors and a select group of writers contribute stories for the day to the Trello Available Articles list as cards, including source links. If editors do not approve an idea, there is no issue; writers can either develop it further or find a new idea to present.

In some cases, editors assign a specific story to a particular writer by adding them as a member of the Trello card. Alternatively, they may assign it to any available writer according to the daily schedule, which can be updated at any time.

If an editor or writer wishes to change the direction of a piece, it is encouraged! We prefer to receive such feedback early on to avoid the need for extensive rewrites later. Discussions regarding this can take place on the Slack channel.

If editors or writers have additional insights, sources, or details to contribute to an idea, that's fantastic! We acknowledge that this is a collaborative effort and that each writer possesses their own knowledge of the aviation industry. Simply add the information to the Trello card and inform everyone through the Slack channel.

This review process plays a vital role in refining the content before it is drafted, allowing for valuable insights, time savings, and effective workflow management.

The WordPress Editor

Step 3: Drafting

Once an idea receives approval, writers or editors will move the corresponding Trello card from the Available Articles list to the Articles in Progress list. Subsequently, they will create a new post in our WordPress (WP) editor. This process enables everyone to track the subsequent steps of the editorial process for the day's stories, determine the responsible parties, visualize the titles, and more, both in Trello and in WP.

During this stage, writers are required to save their work as a draft, unless WP automatically saves it. Editors will not make any modifications to stories that are saved as drafts; writers are given the freedom to work their magic independently. It is worth noting that if a writer selects a story from Trello to work on, they are expected to complete the draft for review within an hour, unless it is a special report or analysis.

While most of us are familiar with the concept of drafting, which involves organizing ideas into sentences, paragraphs, and essay formats, we have higher expectations for our own writing team. Here are a few essential expectations we have for our writers:

  • Find the real facts as close to the original source as possible. Outstanding writing begins with a foundation of facts, not simply finding facts to support your ideas (or ignoring the facts altogether).

We anticipate that our writers will not only gather factual information to substantiate the assertions in their content but also identify the sources of those facts. In today's fast-paced internet and popular culture, news, facts, and various other information spread rapidly. Therefore, it is essential to ethically source facts from reputable and credible sources rather than relying on random internet pages quoting information that has been passed through multiple unreliable channels.

Most story cards in Trello will have a few reputable sources to kickstart the drafting process.
  • Chase down the answers to the questions. If you have a question about something while writing, there’s a good chance your readers will have a similar question. Rather than hedging, redirecting, or using vague qualifiers, writers should pursue nuanced answers to their questions (and provide them to readers as well). In the process, writers will likely come across new directions for a piece, new facts that inform their approach, or even new ideas for future content topics.

Another added benefit of really digging into research and drafting is that our writers accrue knowledge specific to their related practices in the aviation industry. When a new story is pitched, editors assign it to a content specialist who is already familiar with their focus areas.

  • Get the story from the horse's mouth. A writer can and should ask an editor to email an airline, airport, or manufacturer for comments. To follow up, the editor will most likely include the writer in the email thread so he or she can dig deeper and get that exclusive scoop on the story.
Editors can email industry contacts to help writers get the facts they need first-hand
  • Ask questions. We have a very horizontal and collaborative culture at Airways, and we encourage everyone, especially writers, to ask clarifying questions whenever they come up. Sometimes, another writer or editor can answer a question. Other times, a manager can. All Airways staff members should make an effort to reach out if they know the answer to a question will have demonstrable value for a given story.
  • Edit your own work at least once. Developing and improving the substance of content is the prime directive of writers during the drafting process, but research shows that writers themselves can catch more than half of their own errors by proofreading their own work. Including this step helps writers improve their own craft and saves editors time.
  • Keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. All of our writers are expected to follow our SEO guidelines as they write. Our WordPress post-writing tool includes space for the title (H1), the targeted keyword(s), category selection, tags, and Google description (usually the lead or first paragraph), and we also expect writers to create descriptive headings (such as H3s) with keyword variants. In addition, writers should follow our image usage standards when selecting images for their stories. Finally, WP has the Yoast SEO tool on the right-hand side menu to help writers along the way while double-checking their work.

Obviously, there’s more to drafting than this—such as attending to reading levels, formatting a piece based on best practices for online reading, citing sources thoroughly, getting acquainted with our editorial guidelines, etc.—but we hope these expectations for writers are clearly outlined in detail to improve quality at the drafting stage.

Once writers are done with their drafts, they must select the Pending Review box on the right-hand side menu in WP and save them as is. Additionally, they must move the Trello card from the Articles in Progress list to the Pending Articles list. It is strictly prohibited for writers to click on the "Publish" button in WP at this time. Save and exit the editor.

If by any chance this is done accidentally, WP will ask you to confirm publishing, which you can cancel. This prevents any accidental publishing.

Once the story is saved as Pending Review (right-hand side menu), the writer must move the card from the Articles in Progress list to the Pending Articles list in Trello, and that’s where editors come in. Writers should have already exited the WP editor.

WordPress Posts will either be in Draft, Pending, or Published

Step 4: Editing

We have a “two sets of eyes on everything” rule here at Airways so that no writer is ever forced to edit their own work before it is published for the world at large to see.

Having a second person (especially one whose expertise is in editing) take a fresh look at any piece of content helps catch more errors and adds a layer of collaboration and accountability that pushes all of us to perform our best and focus on our primary objective: creating the best possible piece of written work for airwaysmag.com's demanding readers.

While many people consider editing to be one step, “editing” is actually a broad term for several different processes: revising, editing, and proofing. Below is an overview of those more nuanced steps:

Revising: While revising, the editor will review the piece primarily for structural considerations. Are sections and paragraphs in the best order? Is there any important information missing? Is there irrelevant information included? Are transitions present, and do they help reveal the internal logic of the piece? Are sources accurate, cited properly, and appropriate for the piece?

Editing: Next comes editing, which generally focuses on the sentence and word level. Are sentences grammatically correct? Are the sentences clear? Are they too long? Are the best words being used? Are connected phrases and elements structured in parallel? Do subjects and verbs agree? Is the verb tense consistent?

Proofing: After revising and editing, the editor must carefully review a piece for technical correctness and consistency. Punctuation, formatting, spelling, capitalization, and other minutiae are addressed during the proofing stage as per our editorial guidelines.

Editors will make your draft look amazing and ready for publishing. They will also add any additional information, images, categories, and tags needed.

In addition to the basic responsibilities of an editor above, we expect editors to approach pieces with skepticism. This takes many forms. If a claim doesn’t have robust factual support, we expect editors to find it and/or update that section. If a fact seems dubious, we expect editors to corroborate it. If a section appears to run afoul of specific editorial guidelines, we expect editors to revise it.

Furthermore, we expect editors to workshop particularly tricky sections with the editorial team. We do this in the #online-editorial channel on Slack. Our team of writers and editors is included in the group, and we frequently workshop sentences, headlines, summaries, and other short passages together to arrive at the best possible iteration in a final draft.

In summary, the principles of good news editing are accuracy, attribution, balance and fairness, brevity, clarity, readability, human interest, and sharp observation.

By the time a piece is thoroughly edited, it is ready for publication (the editor or SM team will move the Trello card to the Completed Articles list).

This is the Slack #ed-newarticles channel

Step 5: Publishing Content

At this stage of the editorial process, it is crucial for a piece to be as close to perfection as possible with the collective efforts of the team. However, all the hard work put into ensuring quality at every step can be undone if the content is not published correctly online.

For instance, if the content lacks essential SEO elements or is not discoverable by search engines, its success will be limited. Similarly, if a piece is improperly formatted online, it may be difficult to read or fail to capture readers' attention. Various issues can arise during the publication stage of the editorial process, underscoring the importance of clearly outlining expectations.

The editors at Airways optimize each published piece of content, adhering to formatting best practices and incorporating attention-grabbing images with the assistance of our talented aviation photography staff, among other tasks. Additionally, everyone at Airways is encouraged to reach out to the editorial staff if they notice any issues in the copy, providing an additional layer of quality assurance.

At this point, the editor in charge will publish the article and share the link in the Slack #newarticles channels, allowing the social media representatives to distribute the published story across different platforms. The editor will then move the Trello card to the Completed Articles of the Day list.

Subsequently, the social media team will take over, distributing the articles on social media platforms and moving the Trello card to the "Posted on SM" list, where it will be archived at the end of the day.

You can see steps 1 through 5 in action in the following short video:


Step 6: Distributing Published Content

Once a high-quality piece of content is complete and live, it will start paying dividends naturally in many ways. For example, it will:

  • Organically draw in new visitors to Airwaysmag.com.
  • Improve the number of keywords Airwaysmag.com ranks for.
  • Improve Airwaysmag.com's rankings in searches.
  • Cross-promote other articles on Airwaysmag.com.
  • Funnel qualified site traffic to important conversion pages on Airwaysmag.com.
  • Increase conversions both online and in print.
  • Maintain the reputation of Airways as the leading global reviewer of commercial aviation.

To amplify these effects, our content is distributed in many ways:

  • We promote our stories via a weekly email newsletter
  • Our Social Media team posts our content on various Social Media outlets
  • Our YouTube team creates informative videos based on published articles and original shows, such as weekly news recaps and more
Airways' Facebook Page in Spanish

The editors hope that by explaining in detail our editorial workflow, writers, and editors can follow its procedures systematically and with the utmost attention to ensure Airways continues to be the premier source of commercial aviation news for our global audience.

Version 1.2. Helwing Villamizar, 2022