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Dumb ideas never die

The war on editing continues.

William Dean Singleton of MediaNews has suggested that outsourcing copy editing from local newspaper to central, possibly offshore, locations makes a lot of sense. In riposte, the American Copy Editors Society suggests that your experience with overseas customer service call centers illustrates the likely consequences.

Imagine as a comparable instance that General Motors and Ford, fighting desperately to reverse their plummeting sales and stock values, concluded that it would be smart to save money by eliminating the quality control function. Think they’d wind up selling more cars?

Linus Pauling said that the way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas. The newspaper business has been for years conspicuously short on ideas; now that circumstances compel it to come up with some, it has shown an enthusiasm for the bad ones. Outsourcing the copy editing, just like eliminating the copy editing, is one of the bad ones. I said so at in 2006, here in 2007, and here again earlier this year; and the penny-wise, pound-foolish idea does not look any better today.

Newspapers need to figure out who their audience is, what their readers want and need, how to deliver that information effectively, and how to make it reliable. Editing is one of the means by which reliability can be accomplished. Editing, to put it in marketing-speak, adds value to the brand.

Got that?



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:57 AM | | Comments (7)


You say, "The newspaper business has been for ears conspicuously short on ideas..."

Correct statement is "BETWEEN THE ears," sted FOR.

JEM: Actually "for years." You see what happens when I post without having someone edit?

That kind of thinking isn't cost effective, John. We need to be more proactive and change our paradigm and or whatever idiotic buzzwords we can bandy about.

::Sigh:: I used to laugh at the concept of the Academie Francaise in its over protection of the French language. Now I am beginning to think we could use something similar to protect what's left of ours.

I hestitate to ask this, it seems so obvious, but the logic of written English edited by a person who - if Verizon call centers are an example - speaks English as a distant second language at best, simply eludes me.

It's always been said that newspapers are written at the sixth grade level. Why do we need graduate school level editing of garbage? GIGO.

I'm sure that if GM outsourced their quality control to Korea or Japan their cars would be better than the shabby union-inspected cars they churn out now. American unions are a betrayal of the union spirit.

the logic of written English

Logic? We don't need no stinkin' logic.

The problem with "foreigners" is that they use logic, which is antithetical to English grammar.

And editing is a big part of what makes the brand distinctive, imparting aesthetic pleasure and securing loyalty. Guess i'm comparing non-critical style decisions to all those round shiny white Mac things....

I believe there is at least one city in the greater Los Angeles area that has outsourced reporting on things like City Council meetings to India. The send the live video feed over there and the "reporters" write the story and submit it to the newspaper.

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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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