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What I've learned

On Sept. 2, I will mark my 21st anniversary at The Sun. It is remarkable how little I’ve learned over this span, but there are a few salient points to pass on.

The paper was always better 10 years ago. (The late Harold A Williams’ The Baltimore Sun, 1837-1987 contains a reference from the 1880s to The Sun as “a once-great paper.”)

Never, never, never, never, never mess with the crossword puzzles.

The reader is always right, though not infrequently wrong.

The worst errors will show up in the big type. (Like pubic safety deputy in a headline in the Maryland section on Aug.8.)

To a reporter, a 50-inch story is, by definition, twice as good as a 25-inch story.

The dumber the comic strip, the fiercer the loyalty.

A reporter, seeing a copy editor’s deletion of an adjective or prepositional phrase, will react as if a chapter has been ripped from the Pentateuch.

The only time the assigning desk will move the copy on time is on a day before a national holiday.

Leave the crossword puzzles alone.

No reader cares as much as a thin belch about how hard you worked on the story or photo or headline.

The printer will run out of paper just as you attempt to proof Page One.

A new editor will change everything. The next one will change everything back.

The name with the CQ mark (meaning that the reporter has checked the spelling and it is correct as stands) must always be checked.

The reader who spots the error you let into print after you caught 19 others will write to ask if anyone on the staff has been to college.

There is no such thing as too much coffee.

Don’t even think about touching the crossword puzzles.

Posted by John McIntyre at 8:21 AM | | Comments (4)


Aren't the horoscopes in there with the crossword puzzles, too?

WAIT! Did you say it's okay to mess with the crosswords? Because I don't think you provided an opinion on that one.

Hearty congratulations! Well done, good and faithful redactor!

Your comment about the CQ reminds me of my rookie year in Syracuse. I was working on a simple obit sent in on a teletype, yes, teletype, wire. The obit had the name Smith spelled in the typical fashion, say, five out of six times. I shot the story to the slot, thinking my job was done. She made me call the funeral director. Sure enough, unless memory is playing Proustian tricks on me, I learned the name was spelled as a variant ("Smyth," or whatever). It only showed up perhaps once out of seven times on the copy. I was ready to play the odds. No such doing, the person in the slot said. What a great lesson!

Again, congratulations, sir.

Felicitations on 21 years before the Masthead. (I know, I know - I couldn't resist.) Just what is the policy on crosswords?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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