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Know your copy editors

I was once directly subordinate to an editor who, for the two years that the editor was theoretically in charge of the copy desk, did not trouble to learn who all the copy editors were by name or by sight.

For a supervising editor, this may not be seen as a drawback — though a supervising editor who did not know all the reporters would be considered eccentric, if not incompetent — but for the copy desk itself, ticking along in obscurity has been customary, the mind of man remembereth not to the contrary.

But for a colleague such as an assigning editor or reporter, knowing who has hands on the copy is useful, perhaps even vital.

It would make unlikely the sort of scene, noted just this week, when a reporter* carried on volubly about the nasty, suspicious-minded copy editor who had the temerity to point out that he had gotten a person’s name wrong in his story — without realizing that he was standing next to that very copy editor.


*Don’t ask; I’m not telling.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:53 AM | | Comments (2)


Heh, heh.

Probably wasn't a pleasant experience for the copy editor, but I bet he/she took great solace in the fact that the incident is thoroughly proves the reporter's incompet--er, lack of attention to detail

I worked at a paper where a reporter stormed into the copy desk chief's office to scream about a copy editor having called his home at 11 the night before. Seems that the call interrupted the reporter's weekly intimacy session with his wife.
The copy desk chief suggested that the copy editor had no way of knowing about the couple's schedule and would not have called without a good reason.
This did not please the reporter, who continued to rant about the copy editor's stupidity and lack of respect.
Finally, the other person seated in the office spoke up: "I'm that copy editor," she said.
That ended the rant.

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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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