Friday, October 19, 2007

2nd Update Copy Editors, Pay Attention

Update No.2: Over at Poynter, there's a good discussion going about the former Knight Ridder plan to consolidate desks. Not surprisingly, David Sullivan weighs in with lots of good information, including some questions the folks in Philadelphia had raised.

ACES comments on its web site.

UPDATED: John McIntyre wrote a response this morning to Lodovic's bright idea, below, and then our friend Forrest Brown added his two cents. Both worthy of your attention.

The always-smart Tim McGuire catches MediaNews president Joseph Lodovic saying something really foolish:

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

Well, where shall we begin? Because we could fill a blog every day with mistakes we see in unedited copy posted to the web? That our reputation as a profession and an industry rests on accuracy? That anyone familiar with a community knows if their local newspaper staff isn't? We know this to be true. Why doesn't an industry executive?

I try to avoid badmouthing people on this blog but this is really foolish. Not shocking as in, who could have seen that coming, but astounding all the same. How much of this idea is rooted in the shortage of copy editors? Or demands for pay parity with reporters? In copy editors' refusal to close their eyes to weak, badly written, poorly sourced stories?

We talked vaguely about this possibility back when we were first forming ACES--what was the logical outcome of the shortage of copy editors? Some thought it was time to demand more money and some succeeded, apparently. Others thought it was time for copy desks to assert their role in the newsroom and, presumably, some did. Others experienced some foreboding, some fear that this plan for regionalizing desks to save money might be the next step.

As MediaNews makes clear, there's no other reason. It's a way of producing carbon copy newspapers, by people unfamiliar with an area.

This is the same kind of thinking that leads us to write endlessly about untalented, self-destructive Hollywood types as if they mattered, thus making ourselves irrelevant to readers. It's the same kind of thinking that allows, even forces, talent and decades of institutional memory out the door and then brags that the loss of dozens, even hundreds, of people won't harm coverage. Or allows the bigmouths of cable "news" to substitute uninformed opinion for reporting, over and over.

This is our leadership? This is our future? Certainly we can and must do better than this.

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