Man Without Qualities

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mickey Comes For The Copy Editors

Mickey Kaus does not like copy editors, at least not a lot of them at the Los Angeles Times:

Various Times-people assure me the Tribune execs are bad news, but you have to sympathize with them ... They've bought a paper with a history of bloat, gold-plating, and soul-deadening complacency--the "velvet coffin," as it was known. ... [I]t has a thousand editorial employees! With a third of that, you could easily put out a paper that wouldn't be as good--it would be much, much better. Yet Carroll defends every last copy editor. ... P.S.: I admit, I have a natural enmity with copy editors. My position: A good copy editor will make your copy better--but only on rare occasions will it be enough better to justify the delay and hassle, let alone the copy editor's salary. And good copy editors are hard to find--the best quickly move on to other jobs these days. Those that stay, especially in big organizations like the LAT, are too often repositories of self-justifying pedantry! Usually they just make copy duller. ... Does Carroll really think the Times would be discernibly worse if Ron Brownstein were allowed to type his articles right from his Blackberry onto the front page? Even if you could take the copy editors' salaries and hire more Brownsteins? ...You could make them all use spellcheck!
I forwarded Mickey's comments to a friend who has a fairly high editorial position at the Los Angeles Times without attributing the comments to Mickey or anyone else. I received back the following reply from my friend, who was not impressed, to say the least:
Without having any clue to the identity of the person in the paragraph below, I am tempted to respond bluntly -- but I'll resist. It is clearly someone with substantially more opinion than information. Anyone who thinks a good copy editor can be replaced by a simple investment in spell-check software is most likely the kind of self-perceived artiste who actually thinks he can write. There is, no doubt about it, mediocrity in the ranks of copy editors -- are there is within the ranks of bankers, lawyers, pundits and presidential aides -- but that doesn't condemn the whole lot of them to disposability. And yes -- Ron Brownstein's copy would be discernible worse (most days) if it was not edited. I'm sure he'd be the first to say so. After more than 32 years of writing for this paper -- from its Velvet Coffin days to its Tribune afflicted ones -- I can assure you we do not have enough top notch copy editors. But neither do we have an abundance of poor ones. Let him who is without a streak of mediocrity cast the next stone.
Well, Mickey, are you going to take that bitch-slap lying down?

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