Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The More Things Change ...

My essay in defense of my craft could have been even longer, but I left out, among other things, what we newspaper people would call "B-matter" -- the background that puts a story in context, to bring newcomers up to speed and refresh the memory of everyone else. In this case the B-matter would cover exactly an unsuspecting reader might encounter in a story untouched by editors, or touched only by the big-picture editors. You'll find plenty of that in the archives here and elsewhere and in the comments and other blog reactions to the original Newsosaur post (don't miss Nancy Nall's).

But my favorite recent find in the what-copy-editors-face department is not recent at all. It's a little harsh, but in the spirit of good fun. In case you didn't see it last year on Pam Robinson's site, I present "That Sad-Looking Man," from the May 21, 1882, Arizona Daily Star (I'm forgiving the "proofreader" references just this once):

"Papa, who is that sorrowful, sad-looking man we just met?"

"He is a proof-reader on a morning newspaper, my son."

"Well, I should think he would be very happy, reading all the news and all the pretty stories. Why does he look so miserable?"

"There's where you're off, my son. Happy, indeed! He has cause to look miserable, I'll tell you."



madchickenlittle said...

I don't think any of us think that copy editors should be summarily terminated. I have terrible syntax myself, and hate to read raw prose, this is one of the few blogs I can bear, for obvious reasons.

rknil said...

How today's "copy editor" would handle those problems: Spend the shift designing, then run the raw copy.

This vestigial blog assumes today's "copy editors" still edit.