Can't anyone around here edit?

By Sean Elder

By Salon Staff
July 6, 2000 11:39PM (UTC)
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I cannot believe Elder managed to write this entire piece without mentioning the toil of the copy editor, to whom (at my house, at least) the task of line editing usually falls. I work for a well-respected publishing house specializing in library reference books, where you'd think they'd have an interest in the quality of their "content." All too often, however, manuscripts come to the copy department obviously untouched by the acquiring editors. It thus falls to the copy editors to pound a piece of writing into shape. A persistent rumor that our editor-in-chief has no conception of copy editing makes me wonder what the fate of a real editor is these days. I'd have to disagree with David Granger's limply positive "devalued" rating of the art of line editing. Rather, if not dying, it's certainly lying in the sand somewhere, waiting to die.

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-- Name withheld at writer's request
New York, N.Y.

I expect it's only a matter of time before the print magazines adopt the convention of their online counterparts, which don't use the term "editor" at all. When I recently wrote my first piece of online journalism, I was only slightly bemused that the assignment came from a "senior producer," and the actual in-the-trenches work (alarmingly little of it, by pre-dot-com standards) was handed off to an "assistant producer."

-- Nancy Friedman

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I can't speak to magazine shortcomings, but as an off-and-on newspaper copy editor for several years, I will say that well-edited newspapers are few and far between. Copy editors have to do the page production that used to be done in composing rooms. Editors don't have time to edit -- they have to paginate.

It's all about the bottom line. A newspaper's greatest expense is its people. Computer software doesn't require medical benefits or pensions.

-- Gary Yaerger

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This article was too long for me to read, but if the opening paragraphs were any indication it ended up making some great points.

-- Wm. Anthony Connolly


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