« So that's where my head is | Main | The errant hand »

The plight of the copy desk

If you should tune in to Sheila Kast’s Maryland Morning show on WYPR-FM (88.1) tomorrow, you can listen to an interview with Carl Sessions Stepp of the University of Maryland and me about the perilous state of the newspaper copy desk. Professor Stepp is well worth listening to.

The show begins at 9 a.m. EDT, and this segment is expected to run at about 9:15.



Posted by John McIntyre at 6:26 PM | | Comments (6)


Are this and the National Grammar Day show things you can post to your page as podcasts, for those of us not in the listening area? Thanks.

The station's Web site,, has information on podcasts. I believe that they are available for a limited time after the broadcast.

Just finished listening to the radio piece. Professor Stepp was brilliant.

Once again, your remarks remind me of the constraints faced by nurses working in hospitals where the marching orders include the Orwellian "doing more with less" and the term "deadlines" takes on a more literal meaning. Also familiar is the notion that a few lawsuits may be an acceptable cost of trimming staff. We who are in the trenches hope and pray that this is only morbid speculation on our part.

Where exactly is the cost saving in some of these "flexible" approaches? Presumably, your "buddy" is already fully employed and over-taxed so when he's taking time to edit your work, his own work will suffer. We get this in the hospital too, where we're advised to "help each other" as if we weren't doing that already. And don't get me started on what are termed "nurse-extenders".

Here's a strategy: hire enough competent professionals to get a job well done.

I just listened to the podcast, which lasts a little less than 10 minutes:


Oh, LL, I don't even want to ask what these might be!

Eve -- I think the nomenclature is worse than the actual definition. "Nurse extenders" is a catch-all term to describe people who are ostensibly hired to help nurses and eliminate the need for nurses to perform non-nursing jobs. Better management of resources in theory, until the Rn's are expected to train non-professional personnel to execute tasks which are really best left to nurses.

In the olden days, such people were called orderlies and nurse's aides. When the disease AIDS and all its associated stigma entered the scene in the early 1980s, the title was changed to nursing assistant. Wasn't long before "Support Associate" ,"Clinical Associate" and "Support Tech" arrived with various, confusing job descriptions.

Not exactly sure where this story ends. The poor patients (who are referred to as "clients" in nursing school) are in need of a scorecard to keep track of all the players traipsing through their rooms.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

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
Baltimore Sun Facebook page

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected