Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Yet another of my many grievances: How is it that the most editing-intensive job in the newsroom earns you a title without the word "editor" in it? Copy chief sounds like the person in charge of the xerographic reproducification machine. Copy desk chief is a little better, but it still sounds like an administrative if not clerical position. Slot sounds like, well . . .


Carl V. Natale said...

When I started on the copy desk, I called my parents and told them that I would start out as rim. Then be trained as a slot.

There was a pause. Then they asked, "These are good things?"

Depending on the paper, copy desk chief is a heavily administrative position. Many papers should use the title chief scapegoat (that's a rant for another day).

I held the position at a small paper but was called news editor. Sounded kind of ordinary to me.

Now that I'm on the online side, I'm a content producer. Sounds like I make people happy. I prefer Duke of URL.

Unknown said...

Is "slot" still used in the industry? I just returned to the newspaper after a four-year hiatus, and I'm often confused about which poor dumb bastard still there at ten p.m. is in charge. I usually ask "who wants this?" while waving the proofs in the air, but "who's the slot man?" would be so much cooler.

(I'm a photographer, in case you were wondering. I'll always call guys like you copy editors, because I've seen the horrible misspelled not-quite-English stuff the reporters actually write, and it makes sense in the paper; that's some godlike editing. I like to think I'm better than the reporters, if only because the copy desk hardly ever changes my cutlines.)

Bill said...

Is "slot" still used? Is a bear Catholic?

Unknown said...

I don't know about bear religion (that's the one church I haven't shot -- being the Sunday photographer in East Texas has its boring moments), but I can get you some truly horrifying pictures of what the Pope does in the woods . . .

I'm sure at least two of my slotmen* (the old, jaded career editors) will know the term, the thirtysomething slot may get it (I wouldn't be surprised if he reads this -- Hi, Randy!), and it'll probably confuse the hell out of the fresh-from-college junior copy editors. I can't lose, really.

*One's a girl, but "-men" as a suffix is acceptable, right? I have an AP Stylebook around here somewhere, but you can probably tell me the answer faster than I can look it up.

Bill said...

"Slot man" -- two words, not a suffix -- and I can't say I've heard it applied to a woman.

Jeff said...

I figure being called a copy chief is better, in the same way that it is more prestigious to be the
editor-in-chief than just a city editor, for instance.

But I guess the title is just another one of the quirks of the newspaper business.

Unknown said...

Not yet, perhaps, but it is my life's mission now to make sure that someday, you do.

Jim Thomsen said...

If it makes you feel better, there are almost no "copy desk chiefs" left.

I'm both "slot" and "rim" on my paper (actually, in 22 years of work on five dailies, I've never worked on a universal desk and suspect they're part of an elaborate "snipe hunt" type of joke being played on me). My "official" title is local news copy editor; I call myself the "night and weekend editor."

Jim Thomsen

Unknown said...

Bill: That's right, AP almost always prefers a space over a compound word.

Random thoughts: My Sunday night slot gave me her unused stylebook (the '06 model; she uses one a few years old, with notes in the margins about updates and such).

The stylebook at the photo desk, by the way, is the 2000 edition. I'm probably the only photographer that's ever opened it.

Is there a Firefox dictionary plugin for AP style? There should be. It's telling me "stylebook" is misspelled, and that's just wrong.

What do (non-copy) editors do, besides send me to my doom*? Do they actually edit when they're there 9-5, or is it more just management and screwing with the guys on the street?

*A few weeks ago: "Go out in the hurricane and get some pics!" Today: Cat show. (I'm allergic to cat hair. Yippee! Why we covered this three days in a row, I have no idea. They don't even do tricks like at dog shows!)

My paper has definite slot and rim positions, even though I've never heard them use those terms and they also do page layout -- there's one person that answers the phone and takes my proofs to hand off to the other copy editors, and criticizes the others' heds; and there are the young guys (and girl) who do the inside pages and get yelled at a lot.

I think I've got it down now; the old-school main slot is at the one desk, and if he's not there the order of succession proceeds counterclockwise from there.