The importance of copy-editing, among the dying arts
This is simply too good not to share, though it’s far enough off topic that I shall apologize in advance. As those who have followed my posts here know, I live in a small town. We have a small newspaper, published twice a week and filled with advertising circulars. It is owned by a large corporation which is, in turn, mostly owned by a teacher’s retirement fund, or some such arrangement. I am given to understand that our little newspaper, like many such, is a profitable enterprise.
As my old mentor said often, “Names make news.”
That said, the local paper (I won’t mention its name because to do so is too much like plucking the wings off a fly, and though I’m not opposed to plucking the feathers off a chicken’s wing, even I have my limits) is not known as a bastion of journalism. It’s under-staffed, reprints a lot of press releases, and is loath to offend anyone. Unless they’ve been arrested, indicted, or found dead.
We don’t subscribe, incidentally, because our daughter is a precocious reader and nobody wants to explain to a seven-year-old what a sex offender is, nor why arson might happen, nor why certain neighborhoods are known for the sale of pharmaceuticals and other home remedies. But we sell it at the bookstore, and sometimes read the headlines.
Like this one: “Jailer candidate arrested on DUI charge.”
Oops. But, as one relative or another said, he either has enough relatives to get elected, or he doesn’t, so the headline’s irrelevant.
In this same issue is a long puff piece on the new $4.2-million library. I shan’t bore you with the local politics, save noting that the library board appears to have no supervising authority, and the president of the board is the wife of the town’s leading mortician. She is not noted for her sense of humor.
I was bored, waiting for my wife to quit talking to people, which is what she does for a living (it’s called being a book-seller), and so I happened to read the piece.
On the jump I ran into this paragraph, after which I quit:
“There will be a large adult book section available in the library. It will be complete with magazines and off from the adult books is a reading room.”
This was written, as much of the newspaper is, by the incumbent managing editor.
It is fashionable these days to celebrate the citizen journalist and to claim that such things as copy-editors are unnecessary anchors to a hide-bound past.
It is also true that one works at newspapers like this only because college has just kicked you to the real world, or because options are otherwise slim.
And so, while I am entertained, I don’t wish to make fun. Not exactly.
I wish simply to say once again, “Thank you,” to my old friend, collaborator, partner in crime, and copy-editor, Peter Blackstock. Because he never let me put anything that stupid in print.
I want also to note that in explaining the humor of this sentence I was obliged to shatter the innocence of one of our 18-year-old booksellers, as sweet a young girl as one could hope to meet, plus or minus one or two extra piercings. She troubled over the syntax, and pointed vaguely toward the classics and science fiction section, and said, “We have adult books.” Well, we do. We also have a small erotica section. And the nomenclature is…difficult, fair enough.
But…really…my hunch is that certain among the new library’s patrons will be somewhat disappointed.