Friday, August 15, 2014

Who Neds Copy Editors! Not Us?

This piece was written with misspellings, typos, and factual errors on purpose. And, with any luck, my newspaper editors didn't edit them out or spontaneously combust, when I sent this in.

It turns out we dont need copy editors in news-papers anymore. At least the Indianapolis Star doesn't. They have layed off their entire copy editor staff, as they prepare to move into their new offices in the Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis. (New marketing slogan: Free Cinnabon with every subscription!)

Star editor, Jeff Something — Tailor? Taylor? — calls these cutbacks a evolution — Taylor! It's Jeff Taylor! — and that their "strengthening our bridge to the future." A future where everyone is smarter and can spell and write good, thanks to the increased focus on math testing and decreased reading time in schools, as part of George Wallace Bush's No Child Remaining Behind.

Copy editors do more than just catch typoes and grammer errors. They check facts, they make sure a story flows well, like a bottle of watered down ketchup, and that the language sounds pleasing to the eye. Also, they make sure your stories make sense.

That reminds me of a joke my grandmother used to tell. It was "You can always—" No wait, "You can never—" I don't know. See a copy editor would have helped me figure it out. Or at least deleted this whole paragraph since it's like a broken pencil at the bottom of a kid's backpack when he comes home from school and drops the bag on the floor: it's pointless.

Jeff Taylor — is it Taylor? Now I'm not sure. Sort of like when you unplug the iron, but then your husband or wife asks if you unplugged the iron, and then you can't remember if you unplugged the iron, so you have to drive back to see if you unplugged the iron — said that these layoffs are there way of "recast(ing) our newsroom."

They're expanding the reporting staff, so they can "(be) responsive to the interests of our readers in real time," which from what I've seen is mostly stories about people being shot, apartment fires, and the Kardashians.

The Star plans to expand their investigative reporting, business reporting, digital media and social media, and "expanded reporting on our quality of life and things to do." So more news about fancy restaurants, microbreweries, and art galleries. But not just any old schlocky coverage. They'll have "experts" who are really smart about eating food, drinking beer, and looking at art. Expect a lot more articles on holiday food recipes too, starting each June.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, "some jobs" include 5 of their 11 photographers — which is, like, 75% of their total photo staff — and the entire copy editing staff, "which reviews and polishes news stories before publication."

Instead, copy editing will be outsourced to the Philippines, where young children who learned English by watching old Miami Vice videos, will proofread the articles. Or it will be done by the remaining people on staff.

And all the reporters theyre adding? The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which has swanky offices with burgundy carpet and a lot of leather-bound books, says this is the sixth round of layoffs at the Star in six years, and will only result in six more reporters on staff.

Which makes me wonder if Satan is possible controlling the executive leadership at Gannett, the company that owns America Today newspapers, plus a million other newspapers around the U.S.

With these latest layoffs, a lot of media professionals aren't just losing jobs, but ending careers. These are people who spent years honing their craft, and are being cast aside for more cell phone photos and restaurant reviews.

Yet newspaper executives are continually — or is it continuously? If only someone knew! — flabbergasted that their readership keeps plummeting like a fish out of water, and so they lay off the people who actually make the paper interesting and readable.

In the past, the Star has fired popular columnists and writers, and then are shocked when people quit buying the paper. So they hire a few 24-year-old replacements to write more restaurant stories, and don't understand why the numbers keep dropping, which leads to another round of cuts, and we're again back to first square.

If they truly wanted to stop the bleeding, they would instead fire the managers who keep making boneheaded decisions to cut the news staff on a newspaper.

If you made it this far, you've seen why copy editors are so important. (At least I hope so. Otherwise, I despair for our schools).

We need editors. They take bad copy like this and make it readable. They take decent copy and make it art. They're the reason your newspapers sound like they were written by literate adults, and not a bunch of mouth breathers.

The Star is showing extreme short-sightedness by removing that final layer of quality assurance, the people who make sure words are spelled correctly, grammar is correct, and that all facts have been checked and verified before publication. It's not worth it for the sake of more reporters writing more articles when the writers everyone wanted are already gone.

Because the most important thing to — Taylor! It's Taylor. I finally found it on their website.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

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