Dumb ideas never die

The war on editing continues.

William Dean Singleton of MediaNews has suggested that outsourcing copy editing from local newspaper to central, possibly offshore, locations makes a lot of sense. In riposte, the American Copy Editors Society suggests that your experience with overseas customer service call centers illustrates the likely consequences.

Imagine as a comparable instance that General Motors and Ford, fighting desperately to reverse their plummeting sales and stock values, concluded that it would be smart to save money by eliminating the quality control function. Think they’d wind up selling more cars?

Linus Pauling said that the way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas. The newspaper business has been for years conspicuously short on ideas; now that circumstances compel it to come up with some, it has shown an enthusiasm for the bad ones. Outsourcing the copy editing, just like eliminating the copy editing, is one of the bad ones. I said so at poynter.org in 2006, here in 2007, and here again earlier this year; and the penny-wise, pound-foolish idea does not look any better today.

Newspapers need to figure out who their audience is, what their readers want and need, how to deliver that information effectively, and how to make it reliable. Editing is one of the means by which reliability can be accomplished. Editing, to put it in marketing-speak, adds value to the brand.

Got that?



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