Monday, October 22, 2007

What Do We Need Copy Editors For Anyway?

According to the article “Just sack all the editors” published by the Baltimore Sun, copy editors have made a big mistake by coming to work in the evening after all the important people at the paper have gone for the day. They work late into the night creating remarkably clean newspapers and because they see no reason to “trumpet their achievements” their work often goes unnotices.

This was brought to attention when Joseph Lodovic, the president of Dean Singleton’s MediaNews, voiced the following statement:

We have to find ways to grow revenue or become more efficient by eliminating fixed costs. Why does every newspaper need copy editors? In this day and age, I think copy-editing can be done centrally for several newspapers.

The article cleverly paralleled Lodovic’s comment on copy editors to that of meat inspectors by saying that they are costly, don’t generate revenue and by reducing their number you can save a few bucks:

Sure, a little E. coli will get into the hamburger, and you may have to recall a few million pounds of meat, and a few soreheads may file multimillion-dollar lawsuits – but really, all you were doing was eliminating some fixed costs...Doesn’t the public understand that maintaining a satisfactory profit margin depend on reducing costs?

Most newspapers are made up of intensive local coverage so they need local copy editors, not centralized editors located miles away. The article asks the question of how copy editors working five states away are going to recognize when a “photo desk has supplied for the James F. Smith obituary a photo of James T. Smith” or that an article “has located Savage in Anne Arundel County rather than Howard.”

Many times it isn’t just errors in grammar and usage that the copy desk catches, but also local details that can enhance or diminish the credibility of the report. Just as noted in the article “
Hats Off To The Unsung Copy Editor,” readers have no tolerance for carelessness. The work of a copy editors is just as important to readers as is the work of reporters because what it really comes down to is credibility and no matter what the article is written about if there are errors there are losses of readers.

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