Friday, January 29, 2010

The copy-editing conundrum

Featured Link to an Article of Mine on Helium:

I think it's funny (but mostly tragic) that people are complaining about copy editing mistakes in newspapers like the Washington Post or New York Times and cancelling their subscriptions out of disgust. Don't these people realize that if they cancel their newspaper it will give the newspapers even less revenue and less money to hire enough copy editors to cover their costs?

James Poniewozik at Times Magazine wrote a great article here where he discusses the crisis and says he doesn't blame people for canceling their subscription and surmises that eventually we'll have to enter into a social contract with the paper and decide what we're willing to give up for good journalism (i.e. less writers working in a metro section, less frequent delivery, tolerating more copy editors, etc.).

Personally, I do blame people for begrudging the newspaper for copy errors. It's one thing if the newspaper was inexplicably bringing out a poor product, but as consumers, we have been told exactly why this is occurring. It's one thing if the airline reservations agent is taking an inexplicably long amount of time to get back to you, but if you are across the street from the airport and you can visually see the airport is on fire, shouldn't you have enough sense to ascertain that the reservation's agent is not to blame?

I don't know anything about economics, but I think we have to be smart and responsible consumers. We can do anything we want with our money but newspaper subscribers should fully be aware of the consequences of their actions.

I personally reacted to this story with a sense of, "OK, the newspapers are in trouble, and this is completely understandable. If I want the quality of journalism to get better, I'm going to have to subscribe to their services."

Lastly, I don't think people realize how easy it is to make mistakes. Maybe the newspapers need to make readers understand that a little better, because when you're writing under a deadline, it's hader than you think to copy-edit.

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