Sunday, April 10, 2005

Copy Editors Run the Show, of Course

What's missing in this Chicago Tribune account of the Mitch Albom making-stuff-up affair is any sense of whether a mere copy editor could have made substantive changes in Billionaire Superstar's writing without being fired, or whether anyone would have listened if a mere copy editor had mentioned that Billionaire Superstar should wait until things happen before reporting them.

Ideally, of course, a copy editor should have risked his or her job to prevent obviously false statements from being published. (Also ideally, housing and food would be free. Let's not equate letting Mitch be Mitch with standing by while innocents were tortured.)


Misnomer said...

I think a distinction needs to be made between "copy editor" and "editor." The terms seem to be used interchangeably by the Tribune, but, as far as I know, the responsibilities and expectations for each position are different: a copy editor could not be held responsible for the errors in Albom's article, but an editor might. Or am I splitting too fine a hair?

Bill said...

I made the point about copy editors vs. editors in general in my first version of the post, but I deleted that part because I don't know for sure whether editors other than copy editors looked at the piece in question.

Sarah Sol said...

In my stylebooks over the years, I've kept a bunch of quotes on writing and editing. I immediately thought of this one (from Robert J. Manning, I believe) when I saw the Tribune story: "A reporter must always guard against reporting the plausible as the actual, and this is certainly true in foreign affairs. What is likely or logical does not always happen in foreign policy; reporting likelihoods as facts before they come true is not far removed, it seems to me, from other kinds of misreporting."

Misnomer said...

Bill, "I don't know for sure whether editors other than copy editors looked at the piece in question" was my point. What I should have written is: I think that the Tribune article should make a distinction between "copy editor" and "editor," because it seems to use the terms interchangeably.

I apologize for the lack of clarity. It was my very first Blogslot comment...may I blame nerves? ;-)