Don't weep for me, Ontario

A brief but fatuous article, "The Lonely Life of the Lowly Copy Editor" by Yoni Goldstein in Canada's National Post manages to retail every creaky cliche about the craft and its practitioners while displaying a startling ignorance of what is involved in editing. 

 The copy editor, we are to understand, is a socially awkward creature assigned to tend to minuscule errors after the reporters and assigning editors have vetted everything, "a human spellchecker and guardian of the newspaper's arcane style guide, a set of rules (like whether to spell the word 'aging' or 'ageing') most editors and reporters either ignore or forget."

There is more in this vein, but you should get the drift. 

Of course, we lowly creatures know just how much cleaning up beyond the commas and the spelling, though we do have to concern ourselves with the spelling, our colleagues often being (a) inept at orthography and (b) too lofty to operate a spell-check themselves. Names and places and facts and all manner of factual details that have escaped the attention of higher-ups. 

It was, moreover, Baltimore Sun copy editors who caught the most egregious example of libel to reach my hands in three decades in the business, written by a veteran reporter and shipped over intact by one of those higher-up editors. It was a fellow copy editor who caught a reporter's plagiarized copy. It was a fellow editor who recently got a scheduled story held because it made sweeping statements without adequate support and attribution. 

It is copy editors who perform the tasks that Doug Fisher describes at Common Sense Journalism. Professor Fisher reluctantly concludes that "many managers and executives remain clueless about what editors do." He quotes David Arkin, a Gatehouse vice president of content and audience, as saying "The role of the copy editor today is to move copy as they get it." He can safely enroll Yoni Goldstein in his catalogue of the clueless. 


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