How long does it take to edit a story? I can tell you. And I have proof.

I’ve written plenty about the importance and craft of editing – about how it’s a collaborative process that starts with helping the reporter shape the pitch and plan the story, continues through the reporting process, and doesn’t end until the facts and audio have been checked and the text and photos in the digital piece are in place.

I’ve also written about how editing tends to be undervalued. After all, it happens behind the scenes, and managers rarely understand how time-consuming and labor intensive it can be.

I now have data that sheds light on the time question.

Time Spent Editing

Last month, I edited five radio and digital profiles of Florida’s U.S. Senate candidates, produced by reporters at public media stations around the state. Over the next two months, I’ll be editing a 10-part radio/digital series on Florida election issues – part of the same multi-station collaborative project.

I’m tracking the hours I’m spending on these edits for business reasons … and it’s eye-opening.

In total, the five-part candidate series took 26 hours of editing.

Here’s how that breaks down:

  • Story planning: 5 hours
  • Radio editing: 14 hours
    At least 2 rounds of audio edits & a final script edit per piece
  • Online editing: 7 hours
Web Editing: Not an Afterthought

I was especially surprised to find that I spent close to two hours per piece on web editing alone.

Even the best radio editors have a tendency to think of the online version of a piece as an afterthought. After all, the facts of the story are there – the web article just requires a little stylistic tweaking, right? Not necessarily.

If done well, the online story may be structurally quite different from the radio piece. And when you take time to think about the headline, links and subheads, and visual elements, things really start to add up.

The lesson I learned: build time into the production schedule for thorough and thoughtful web editing. Don’t let it be an afterthought.

Quality Editing Takes Time

Bottom line – each of these story edits took well over half a workday.

That may come as a surprise to people who think editing is no more than a cursory glance at a final script or piece of copy.


How long does it take to edit a story? I can tell you. And I have proof.

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