Friday, March 20, 2009

The Disrespect Never Ends

When people write stuff like this, I can only guess that it is ignorance and not malice. A copy editor who has just lost his job complains about the lack of standards on the web; this is the response:

Why Didn't the P-I Fold Sooner?

Is it new? Yes. Is it scary? If you're over 30. Is it better? For the love of God, yes.

So I'm not mourning the "loss" of the P-I. I'm raising my glass to their new opportunity to make an even better publication. May they have many, many happy years.

Saying you're sorry that people have lost their jobs and then dismissing what they say suggests you're more interested in your words than in what they said.

Here's what the newly unemployed copy editor said:

Glenn Ericksen, Copy Editor for the P-I, said the Web "lowers the standard of literacy all around. Who needs copy editors on the Web?"

And when you have people like Sam Zell say essentially the same thing--that writers can write and post their stuff to the web without any editors--copy editors have a right to be upset, not only because of the loss of their jobs but because of the loss of respect and value for their work. You cannot seriously argue that stories on the web are edited as well as print. And the P-I staff went from 170 jobs, many union, to 20, none union. Whoo-hoo, let's throw a party.

This is not the first person to so cavalierly dismiss what copy editors are saying or pretend it's just an issue of technology. It is not. And it is most definitely not an age issue, though younger writers sometimes try to label it as one. I personally like a lot of things about news web sites, including the idea of continuous updates, just as older newspapers used to put out multiple editions for street sales. It's invigorating, it's journalism as it can be. But what this copy editor is saying is that it's a matter of believing that what we do matters, that web sites ought to pay attention to what we have to offer but they too often don't in the rush to do everything on the cheap. And, oh, yeah, people who have just lost their jobs should be cut some slack.

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