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If you're a copy editor, this is a painful read

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by LongTimeListener, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    But, according to ReadWrite.com's former editor, a truth -- people don't care if something is edited well.


    Every story went through them before being published. They were fantastic.

    They also slowed the publishing process to a screeching near-halt. And, even more importantly: No. One. Cared.

    Hiring them was part of a larger, and ultimately failed, experiment to bring magazine-style editing and quality control to tech blogging. We would write fewer, better stories. Our copy would gleam. Readers would swoon.

    It was a train wreck. Traffic plummeted. By half. Literally, month-to-month traffic cut in half. As we tried to right the sinking ship the first thing I did was fire the copyeditors. During the eight-or-so months they worked for us no one had ever commented on our clean copy. No one told us they came to our site because we had fewer typos than TechCruch. I saw the difference. It’s not that readers didn’t, they just didn’t care.
  2. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    They also slowed the publishing process to a screeching near-halt. And, even more importantly important: No. One. Cared.

    Pet peeve. Should have run that by a copy editor.
  3. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    I just read that. And he's kinda right.

    No matter how well edited you think a piece is, someone is going to think it is wrong.

    It may be because they don't know AP style or it might be because of some internal house style or whatever.

    Great writing isn't always perfect grammar. That's why it is writing.
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Maybe his copy editors were slow compared with most people on sports desks. It seldom happens now, but I've seen people nurse four stories for an entire shift. Once in the mid-1980s I had a tryout at a huge, very good newspaper and the woman in the slot gave me four stories at the start of the shift, and because I was unfamiliar with the computer system and wanted to do an excellent job, it took me a bit more than two hours. I told her I was ready for more and she said there was no more and that I could sit over there with the rest of the desk and watch TV until quitting time. I'll bet it's not like that anymore at that paper.

    A couple decades ago I worked on a paper that had a daily bulldog edition. Three rim editors would come in at 3 p.m. and blow through 10 or 12 stories each by the deadline of 4:15. It remains the craziest thing I've ever seen, but we were all very good copy editors and we did catch things like libel. And we did try to ensure accuracy. Now as far as proper English, well, we did not dwell on it for that edition. And then there was the legendary hed, before my time, that was rushed into that edition: Horse/wins/race. Nevertheless, the big things got fast scrutiny by highly skilled people, and I think that's what this guy is missing. You can live with lots of little mistakes, but in a small or marginally profitable operation, one big error can put you right out of business.
  5. MisterCreosote

    MisterCreosote Well-Known Member

    No, he isn't.

    You can't be serious with this.

    I could edit a story to say "Barack Obama was formerly a senator from Illinois," and a reader could think it's wrong because he/she is convinced Obama was a senator from Hawaii. Should I not bother to correct it?

    Readers will always think something is wrong, but good editing will ensure that it isn't wrong, regardless of what people think. Part of editing is to ensure facts are facts and are verifiable.

    If you think editing is all fixing style, grammar or typos, you could not be more wrong. You could try, but you would not be successful.
  6. boundforboston

    boundforboston Well-Known Member

    The person has since added

    Update for the copyeditors and journalists I irritated today: I wasn’t debating the value of copyeditors or saying copyediting was responsible for the drop in traffic. We, the top editors, were responsible for that. We were convinced that fewer, higher-quality stories would differentiate ourselves in the tech news world and would attract readers. We hired more editors, including copyeditors, and published fewer, better stories. We went from being a site that had 20+ posts a day — many of which were published within 30 mins of news breaking — to publishing at most 10, many of which were published hours and hours after news had broken. By that point, our audience had moved onto the next thing. That’s the nature of tech news.

    The copyedited stories themselves weren’t the problem. Having copyeditors was. Having an editorial process that emphasized that slower, thoughtful editing ended up being a terrible idea.
  7. MisterCreosote

    MisterCreosote Well-Known Member

    You know who would never let these two nonsensical, contradictory sentences get published? A fucking copy editor.
  8. boundforboston

    boundforboston Well-Known Member

    From his point of view, they're not contradictory. He's arguing the stories are good work but because they have to go through a copy editor, it takes too long to post and that people have already left their site.
  9. MisterCreosote

    MisterCreosote Well-Known Member

    There's no point in having copy editors if they're not going to edit copy. The two are one in the same. How else would copy editors be a problem if not for the work they perform?

    I wish he'd just admit he'd rather be quick than correct. That he thinks making the product worse is a good business strategy.

    And, there's not a single story written anywhere that doesn't need to be professionally edited.
  10. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    But why?

    Just from a quick view of TechCrunch or many other sites, this guy appears to be correct with his assertion that readers don't care. If there is no business reason and the market doesn't demand it, what's the "need"?
  11. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    He doesn't think being quick over everything else is good business strategy. He KNOWS it. The numbers told him so.

    And if your financial model is based on traffic numbers, then it behooves you to do whatever it can to move them up. That's the nature of the beast, right or wrong.

    Also, the numbers told him that by taking more time to massage copy, he DID make the product worse -- worse as in posting fewer stories in a less timely fashion.
  12. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    In my experience, readers care one hell of a lot about both English language and factual errors. I would think that in a tech blog, where the subject matter is complex devices, factual inaccuracy would be a stone killer. I don't think this chap has addressed what I'll bet was the real problem with his failed strategy -- that the longer stories weren't good enough to justify their length and the time involved.
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