Turtles, iguanas and read alouds

June 13, 2008

This week at ZooGoer  was a rollercoaster of rushing to get things done and waiting for designers and photographers to get back to us. Since we want the printers to receive all the materials they need by early next week, this week consisted of going back and forth with the designers – accepting layouts, making any editorial edits – and trying to obtain high resolution versions of all the pictures we wanted to run.

We would spend a day hurriedly emailing back and forth with photographers and sending all of the content to the designer and then we would spend a day waiting to get the layouts back from her.


Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Grand Cayman iguana

On one of our down days, my supervisor and I took a trip to the Reptile Discovery Center  to visit all of the animals and hopefully get some story ideas. Now, I have to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of snakes and I haven’t even gone into the RDC on my previous trips to the Zoo as a visitor, but there is a lot more than just snakes and it is really cool!

There are displays set up so that visitors can touch actual snake skin from several different species to see what it feels like and to help dispel the myth that snakes are slimy and I touched them all and it wasn’t so bad. What was really surprising to me was that a lot of the lizards’ skin looked like fabric the way it was wrinkled and folded.

There are so many colorful species and all of the animals at the RDC are so interesting looking. The Madagascar giant day gecko is a shade of neon green so bright it looks more like a plastic toy than a real lizard. And the yellow-and-blue poison frog looked like a child’s coloring book with several different colors on one little body.

I especially enjoyed the exhibits that were set up so as to allow visitors to see the animals above water, but also see them swimming below the surface of the water.  Turtles are so graceful when they swim.


Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Australian Snake-necked Turtle

This week I also got to participate in my first-ever read aloud copy editing session. I had never even heard of such a thing. There is a volunteer who has been coming in for over twenty years to do a read aloud – she learned the process at National Geographic and has brought it with her to the Zoo.

One morning we spent four hours with the volunteer while she read every single thing on the page for all 32 pages of the magazine. She read the masthead, page numbers, punctuation, italics – everything. At first I was skeptical of the process. I didn’t think we would find errors that couldn’t be caught by simply reading the copy to ourselves. But this process gave us a chance to discuss things like whether or not to hyphenate agro-chemicals and macro-invertebrates. It also helped to keep the style consistent throughout the entire publication.

Regardless of the process, it was also nice to have another set of eyes go over the issue – particularly someone who hadn’t already looked over each piece numerous times. She was particularly helpful in ensuring that the photo captions were correct and made sense with the images.

Overall, it was an interesting experience (and worthwhile, since we caught several errors), but not necessarily something I would run out and institute in every newsroom or magazine – you definitely have to have the time and the patience to get through it.

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