Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Say Goodby to the Copy Editr

Most people, I believe, are born with at least one superior talent and all life is simply about figuring out what it is and honing it.

For me, though I write well and reported the news well, the thing I did best was edit someone else's work. Not proofread, but take a news story (or other piece of nonfiction) and see what others may not have and then improve it. Newspaper copy editors also write headlines and captions, fix grammar and punctuation and stand guard like feudal knights against the depredation of language and convention, screaming “NO!”

Alas, the newspaper copy editor will soon go the way of the milkman. Here is an elegy to the craft from Monday’s New York Times. Actually, it is more of a eulogy.


I went to the Newseum, a shiny new building in Washington that news companies and foundations have erected as a shrine to their industry.

Since it’s my industry, too, I thought a museum, where sacred relics and texts have been placed safely in the equivalent of a big glass jar, might make me hopeful about the future. “Where’s the section on copy editing?”

I asked the guy at the entrance. He wasn’t sure. “Try Internet, TV and Radio, on the third floor.” “For copy editing? Newspaper copy editing?” He checked with a colleague. “News History, on five,” she said. …

For the rest click here.

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