Adobe InCopy is just the ticket for Tennessee paper

In the midst of my busiest year ever, Dale Gentry, publisher of The Standard-Banner in Jefferson City, Tennessee, called to ask if I could find time to visit his newspaper. Less than an hour away from my office, I’ve visited Dale’s staff numerous times over the past 20 years and there was no way I was going to say, “no.”

So between trips to Edmonton, Alberta and Preston, Minnesota, I found an afternoon to spend with the staff of the Standard-Banner. The request from Dale was simple enough: “Can you teach us to use InCopy?”

For those that aren’t familiar with the application, InCopy is an Adobe product created to use in conjunction with InDesign. It allows users to create an editorial workflow between reporters, editors and page designers.

InCopy has been around for quite a while. I first began teaching newspapers to use it in 2000, shortly after the release of version 1.0. The idea is simple, really. While reporters and editors use InCopy to write and edit stories, designers lay out pages using InDesign. For folks who have never used editorial workflow software, its amazing to see InCopy in action.

The afternoon began with everyone gathered around a conference table, watching on a screen (OK, I was projecting onto a wall) as I went over the basics of using InCopy. Using InCopy is much the same as using any other word processor. The writer simply enters text and it appears on the screen.

Where InCopy differs from other word processors is its ability to work cooperatively with InDesign, allowing the writer and editor the ability to see how their words look on the InDesign page, as well as make changes to elements on the page.

While I was showing the group how the InCopy/InDesign workflow works, they were surprised at how easy it was to duplicate the process. As Dale told me, “We’ve had InCopy for several months. We just couldn’t figure out how to use it.”

The InCopy/InDesign workflow is like that. It’s incredibly easy to use, but almost impossible to learn on your own.

After 90 minutes of instruction, I sent the staff out to create stories in InCopy and pages in InDesign. Then we gathered around Dale’s computer for the real-world test.

Dale opened InCopy, then opened the InDesign page that had been created across the building by Kim, the lead paginator. As he started placing his stories on her InDesign page, he let out an audible, “Oh, this is going to be great.”

When I asked Dale what he meant, he answered, “I can already see all kinds of ways this is going to improve our process.

And so it was. An easy afternoon for me. Just an hour’s drive each way, then three hours with the staff of the paper. My work was done.

And for those who think your paper is too small to benefit from InCopy, I just visited a 600 circulation newspaper in Minnesota that has been using it for the past two years and, according to them, “couldn’t live without it.”

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