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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.

We’ve been over this ground before, and also here and here at the Poynter Institute’s Web site.

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.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:26 AM | | Comments (5)


Seems to me that newspaper executives seldom think more than one step ahead:

1. Getting rid of the copy editors will save money this year.


1.a. OK, we need SOME copy editors.


1.b. Where did all the copy editors go?


1.c. Where did the last readers and advertisers go?

Hear, hear!

(And not "here, here," as I have seen far too many times ... especially on the Internet -- unedited.)

I blog for and my copy goes straight to site. I really, really, really miss having an editor. Luckily, my posts are short, but I still would love to have a second pair of eyes looking over my copy.

Unfortunately, "straight to site" seem to be par for the course in the blogosphere.

Having spent some time as a writer, assigning editor and copy editor during my college years running a newspaper I have to say I agree wholeheartedly. The average reader does NOT want to see what is submitted by the average writer.

In fact, it would probably do them more harm than good, and aren't we supposed to be looking out for our readers? Just a little?

"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..."

My goodness.

It's good that the Sun only hires highly educated reporters who have advanced degrees in journalism. Imagine how bad the copy would be if they hired high school graduates fresh from Hollins Street.

People like that would never make the entry level cut.

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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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