Saluting the good editors out there

The blog attached here hits me at a couple of levels. One of them saddens me; the other offers me a chance to salute my former colleagues who get too few accolades.

The blog talks about a “life in newspapers” and the mistakes that get made whenever you produce that things that ends up — or used to end up — on people’s front porches every day.

Like the writer of the blog I’ve attached, I also spent a life in newspapers. My lifespan lasted 37 years. It ended suddenly nearly three years ago. I’ve moved on.

But as the blog notes, mistakesĀ happen when you produce a newspaper. Hey, we’re all human, right? As one of my former editors used to say, the fact that a paper gets shipped out daily “is nothing short of a miracle,” given all the things that can — and sometimes do — go wrong.

My two takeaways:

* Newspapers as we’ve known them are fading away. They’re being produced these days with fewer people. The Denver Post recently announced more buyouts and layoffs of newsroom employees. That means the newspaper will continue to go to press each day, but fewer people are on hand to shepherd that process.

What does that mean? It means more pressure is being applied to those employees. More pressure means more stress. More stress means shorter attention spans. Shorter attention spans means more errors, such as the one noted in the blog about the “amphibious” baseball pitcher. The operative word should have been “ambidextrous.” You and I know the difference between the words’ meaning. But when you rely too heavily on computer spell-check technology and less on human knowledge of the English language, well, you get that kind of mistake.

There’s more of that going on. It’s happening everywhere, such as at the newspaper where my career ended.

It saddens me terribly.

* Good copy editors are invaluable and deserve more praise for doing a good job. When a newspaper publishes what’s known as a “head bust,” the copy editor responsible for approving that page gets the heat. Yes, that shouldn’t happen. But for all the head busts that see print, we never see the mistakes that are caught and corrected. By whom? The individuals with the responsibility of ensuring that mistakes do not find their way into the finished newspaper.

Too often, we take those individuals for granted. We expect them to do their job, which is not an unreasonable expectation. But when they do their job well, we need to appreciate all they do openly.

I’ve had the honor of editing news copy during the length of my career. I’m doing it now, as a matter of fact, while helping a friend produce a weekly newspaper. It’s a blast and I’m having fun.

The stress, though, is palpable.

As the newspaper industry that we’ve known is evolving into something we cannot yet define, we’re putting more stress on fewer people.

We need to sing the praises of those who do their job well.


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