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You know I'm right

Further support for today’s earlier post, “We can’t handle the truth.”

Item: Martha Brockenbrough sends me this morsel from Ted Pease’s quote of the day on journalism:

“What we are losing is editing. When I grew up, nothing could be communicated to the outside world without editing, getting your facts right, your spelling, etc. . . . That's the worst part of it--the discipline that should go with the ability to communicate is gone.”

— Daniel Schorr, senior correspondent, National Public Radio

Item: A Sun colleague forwards a review by Oliver Kamm of Andrew Lih’s adulatory book on Wikipedia, The Wikipedia Revolution. Mr. Kamm comments, in part, “His account of the way in which the self-designated Wikipedians meet bears the hallmarks of a cult. And that strictly is what Wikipedia represents. It is not part of a democratic culture so much as a populist one: a combination of the anti-intellectualism of the Left and the free-market dogmatism of the Right.”

The fundamental problem with Wikipedia as a tool for the advancement of knowledge, Mr. Kamm argues, is this: “Whereas science and learning pursue truth, Wikipedia prizes consensus. Wikipedia has no means of arbitrating between different claims, other than how many people side with one position rather than another.”

Item: In “The Quality-Control Quandary” in the current number of the American Journalism Review, Carl Sessions Stepp says that reductions in staff, particularly on copy desks, “raise unprecedented questions about the value – and the future – of editing itself. Already at many news organizations, journalists and readers alike have noticed flabbier writing, flatter headlines, more typos. How far can you cut editing without crippling credibility? How do you balance immediacy and accuracy? How much does fine-tuning matter to the work-in-progress online ethos?”

He continues: “At ground level, these concerns fuel another trend: developing ways to maintain reasonable quality control now that the end-of-the-line copy desk can no longer process everything. Interviews and visits by AJR* make clear that newsrooms are lurching toward new ways, from "buddy editing" (where you ask the nearest person to read behind you) to "back editing" (where copy is edited after posting) to "previewing" (where copy goes to a holding directory for an editor to check before live posting).

“For now, though, progress is slow, and the risks seem scary.”


* He quotes me, but there are also reputable figures included in the article.



Posted by John McIntyre at 1:51 PM | | Comments (2)


Also today, courtesy of Andy Bechtel at The Editor's Desk, TV director Rod Lurie comments on the carelessness, inaccuracy and potential malice of bloggers:

I like the AJR piece, but I think your last graph to "Coming and Going" pretty much summed up the problem he spent at length exploring.

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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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