Thursday, February 04, 2010

What do readers really want from papers (and copy editors?

David Sullivan, in one of his usually well-done essays at "That the Press, Baby," has a well-considered and thoughtful answer to that question:

So I have to admit that the most important function of what I do is not the stuff I most enjoy doing -- the "honing" of stories, the subtle word choices, the playing with nuance, the oh-so-clever headlines. If people are interested in a story and believe it, they'll read it even if it's lazily written. What's most important about my job is to look at a story and say -- is the typical person going to find anything wrong with this story? ...

Newspapers dispense with that at their peril. As McGuire and others have noted, the laugher in the Minneapolis cutbacks was not the laying off of vast numbers of copy editors; that was a personal tragedy for a bunch of good folks. It was the belief -- which even the editors' note showed little faith in -- that somehow, spellcheck and reporters reading their own stories and the like were going to take care of the problem this layoff created. If that were the case, newspapers would never have hired copy editors in the first place.

Do take a few minutes to read it and ponder what he says.


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