Is Copy Editing Necessary?

Journalists miss having their mistakes corrected

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Once the unsung heroes of the newsroom, copy editors have been laid off in droves as media companies become leaner, meaner and riddled with typos. But amidst the collapse of the old journalism model (it does have some upsides) some writers have gone out of their way to praise their proofreading, spell-checking, comma-correcting former coworkers.

Perhaps copy editors will be missed after all:

  • Everything Is Different Today, grumbles Gene Weingarten, who sarcastically puts Lady Gaga in his headline in order to "maximize" the amount of hits his article will get."All stories are due now, and most of the constipated people are gone, replaced by multiplatform idea triage specialists. In this hectic environment, mistakes are more likely to be made, meaning that a story might identify Uzbekistan as 'a subspecies of goat.'" Weingarten clearly misses his copy editors.
  • Editing Could Make A Comeback, writes Alexis Madrigal for The Atlantic. In an "intuitive argument," he lays out several reasons why. More people "have realized the value" of a aesthetically pleasing design bereft of typos. He concludes: "Writers might blaze the trails, but editors maintain the roads. The vines are creeping and the potholes are growing. And maybe letting the road deteriorate is really the only way to make audiences and media companies realize the value of those whose names do not appear underneath the headline."
  • Let's Hope It Makes A Comeback, responds Meenal Vamburkar at Mediaite, who riffs from Madrigal's piece. "Editing is necessary in the same way that fact-checking is--yet in the 24/7 news cycle, it's often overlooked in order to save time. Perhaps it's because publishing something online feels less concrete than ink on paper, but that's hardly an excuse."
  • Revenge Of The Copy Editor  Mike Taylor at Mediabistro also documents the recent clamoring of writers lamenting the rise in grammatical mistakes. "We can say that the forces governing the current state of media--limited budgets and the rapid-fire demands of Internet publishing--continue to work against the droves of unthanked and underappreciated guardians of syntactical propriety. Nevertheless, it's comforting to know that the copy editing discipline is dormant rather than extinct."
  • Confessions Of A Copy Editor  In a hilarious, self-appraising article for The Awl, former copy editor Lori Fradkin dishes out the good, the bad, the ugly and the plain weird that comes with the job. "You can't simply shut off the careful reading when you leave the office. You notice typos in novels, missing words in other magazines, incorrect punctuation on billboards. You have nightmares that your oversight turned Mayor Bloomberg into a 'pubic' figure."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.