Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NY Times: Last Copy Editor Out, Please Turn Off the Lights

This from Power Line:
The New York Times--described by a reader earlier today as "the junk-bond issuing, Mexican-controlled New York Times"--continues to decline....from today's paper, an error that every American middle-schooler is taught not to make:
A television review on Friday about "Return to Cranford," on PBS, misidentified, at one point, the period in which the story is set. As the review noted elsewhere, it is set in 1844 -- the mid-19th century, not "the mid-18th century."
Author John Hinderaker concludes:
Does the Times employ editors? Do they really not know these things? The Times is often referred to as an "elite" institution. But the real problem is that the paper is below average.
I can see why John might think this, but there's a more basic, two part answer to his questions. I've experienced this situation myself when having my own articles edited--or not:
  1. Most newspapers have sacked the bulk of their copyeditors and fact-checkers. Same with magazines for that matter. Helps get rid of overhead plus onerous employee benefits packages which will only get worse if the tax-and-spend party stays in power much longer. Problem is, good reporters and reviewers need to dash stuff off as quickly as possible before deadline and rely on the back office staff to catch little goofs they themselves would have caught if they'd had a little more time. With little or no backbench help, errors go uncaught. Except, of course, by alert readers for whom catching such things has always been a most enjoyable sport.
  2. Copyeditors and/or fact checkers who remain--few in number--are young, low-paid English and journalism college grads who've spent more time being propagandized than learning the tricks of the trade like grammar, spelling, and above all, some sense of history. We're now reaping the fruits of this indoctrination. More times than I'd care to cite, ignorant young editors, hired for the lowest possible price, have actually introduced errors into my music reviews, and really stupid ones at that. When this starts happening, a writer starts losing credibility amongst the public, which is really too bad when the errors are not his own.
In point of fact, newspapers and periodicals just don't care about any of this. The bigwigs are trying to save their jobs and rich benefits and to hell with the product. They're just trying to get to retirement age and receive their full, undeserved retirement package which might be in jeopardy if they kept too many worker bees around.

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