liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Let Us Praise Copy Editors, and Then Bury Them

When it comes to cuts at newspapers, there's only one group of people more likely to get it in the neck than reporters.

It's copy editors.

Copy editors are the firewall between the reporter, who's more often than not working under an impossible deadline, and the rapidly dwindling population of newspaper readers. They're the ones who spot the difference between the hastily spelled it's and its, beats the reporter who consistently mixes of up loose and lose (my own bugaboo for many, many years), and knows that the inappropriate use of to, two, and too and can change the meaning of an entire article, let alone a sentence.

The use of spell check in a newspaper environment is well-nigh useless. It might be able to pick up that you misspelled the name "Eduard," but what if the guy in the picture actually spells his name "Edward"?

Copy editors are also responsible for making sure the "jumps" are correct. When a front page article states that the story is concluded on page 12, who do you think makes sure that it does actually finish on page 12 and not, say, page 14? Or even better, makes sure that the second half of that article appears anywhere in the paper at all?

Without copy editors, newspapers would have to rely on reporters to make sure the copy is clean. Considering that a reporter's life is nothing but insane deadlines already, and that most reporters can't spell worth shit, I can say with great sarcasm, "Yeah. That's a plan that'll work out so very well."

That's why this article from the Washington Post Ombudsman makes me irrationally angry. He starts off well in pointing out how the constant cutting of copy editors have hurt the quality of the writing at the Washington Post. (Yes, it's true. Behind every top-notch writer is an editor with a bullwhip.)

Then he ends it with a whimpering (and I'm paraphrasing here): "The wussy copy editors are saying that the increase in content flowing through their department, coupled with the cuts we've made in the copy desk, are going to hurt quality. But it's not true! Because it'll all balance out thanks to technology! Just be patient and know that we know that we're making our newspaper painful to read! Oh, and while you're at it, could you let us know when you see a factual inaccuracy or typo so we can fix it on the Web site? Thanks."

Quoth my not-so-inner ex-reporter self: Fuck. You.

The Fred Clark over at the Slacktivist, himself a newspaper man, shares my sentiments. Of course, he's a whole lot more polite about it than I am, even if he is about a step away from saying, "Jesus wept."

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a deadline to race for my Remix fic.

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