Corporate has another great idea
Here’s how to save a pile of money: Sack all those expensive air traffic controllers and just let the pilots fly the planes on their own.
If the executives charting a direction for America’s newspapers were put in charge of air travel, this is the sort of bright idea you might expect them to come up with. They are the people, after all, who are calling into question the very idea of editing, as Alan Mutter describes at his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog.
The idea gathering momentum that reporters should just file directly to the Web, without all that time-consuming and salary/benefit-expending editing, is not a good thing for the reader or the writer.
Dear reader, as a copy editor for the past 28 years, I’ve seen what writers, both amateur and professional, file, and you don’t want to. Unless you have a depraved appetite for factual errors, blurred focus, wordiness, slovenly grammar, peculiar prose effects and other excesses, it is in your interest for someone other than the writer to go over that text to clean it up, identify its point, and make sure that it gets to the point before you lose all interest.
Dear writer, Lord knows I’m aware that you think that I’m a supercilious twit, but you could probably be pressed to concede that I am on your side. I may be insufferable, but I am there to protect you from errors and misjudgments, to make sure that your intention in writing is carried out effectively, and to draw the reader’s attention to your work.
I suppose that this could look like an increasingly desperate attempt to save my job, but I probably still have it in me to learn how to earn an honest living. (“Welcome to Wal-Mart.”) I’m more concerned about the corps of smart and conscientious editors that I’ve been able to assemble in the dozen years that I have overseen The Sun’s copy desk, and the comparable copy desks at the country’s other great newspapers.
If decisions are made at the highest levels of American journalism to dismantle these operations, the drop in quality will quickly become apparent, and it will not be easy or cheap to repair the damage.