Thursday, February 7, 2008

Oh, Yeah, Copy Editing

So many vapid opinions of my own to offer, so much unlimited space, how will I get to them all.

But let's put the third leg on this particular stool. Newspapers, department stores, copy editing.

Manning Pynn, reader editor of the Orlando Sentinel, wrote: "Nothing, though, beats front-end quality control. Information that can't be trusted is not less useful; it is worthless."

(He wrote that recently, but not recently enough that it isn't behind the archive wall. I can see why a blogger wants everything to be free; I can't do a neat little link here. My convenience, however, is not the Orlando Sentinel's main concern and should not be.)

Among the products that newspapers offer is, as the Committee of Concerned Journalists puts it, verified information. You might not like the information and you might not even agree with whom we verified it with; but it was verified.

In response is offered the self-correcting nature of the Net and the desire of the online provider of information to be seen as useful and correct. Both arguments have a case, and both have flaws.

What is known, though, is that the reputation -- the brand -- of newspapers for journalism is based in large part upon the system by which they gather news; that that system involves copy going through copy editors; and that it has been, by and large, a very successful system.

So copy editors are not the equivalent of check processors, a back office function to be moved from Jersey City to India as quickly as possible. Copy editors are integral to defining the brand -- and thus the business -- of the newspaper. Indeed, copy editors are a vital part of the "core mission," to use that current cliche.

(Plus, we do really cool things like taking a photo of a mother pushing her daughter on a swing on a 70-degree day, with the next day's temperature predicted to be much lower, and writing for the caption: "A Swing in Temperatures.")

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