By Kevin Slimp
Newspaper consultant

The publisher of The Standard-Banner in Jefferson City, Tennessee, recently called to ask if I could visit his newspaper.

Dale Gentry’s paper is less than an hour away from my office. I’ve visited his staff numerous times over the past 20 years and was happy to say yes.

So between trips to Edmonton, Alberta, and Preston, Minnesota, I spent an afternoon with the staff of the Standard-Banner.

The request from Gentry 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, it’s 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 processing program. The writer simply enters text, and it appears on the screen.

Where InCopy differs from other word processing software 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 Gentry 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 difficult to figure out 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 Gentry’s computer for the real-world test.

He opened InCopy and then opened an InDesign page that had been created across the building by the lead paginator.

As he started placing his stories on her InDesign page, he said, “Oh, this is going to be great.”

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

And so it was. In just three hours, the staff of the paper had the skills to begin utilizing InCopy.

For those who think their paper is too small to benefit from InCopy, I just visited a 1,200-circulation newspaper in Minnesota that has been using it for the past two years. According to their leadership, they “couldn’t live without it.”

Kevin Slimp works as a newspaper industry trainer, speaker, writer and consultant.