Last Friday, North Carolina’s Winston-Salem Journal said goodbye to its copy desk when parent company Media General moved forward with its decision to consolidate the copy desks of three metro papers it owns.
The Winston-Salem Journal is losing its copy desk—all eighteen people—to a consolidation of resources in Media General. It is a tremendous blow to the paper: the loss of institutional knowledge, the loss of local knowledge, the loss of resources to ensure accuracy and clarity. The War on Editing has claimed another cluster of casualties.
Copy editors are the umpires of the newsroom — they’ve done a great job if you barely notice they’ve been there.
Most everything that goes into our paper is edited at least twice. The first editor is what we call a “line” editor — usually the reporter’s boss. The second layer is the copy editor. The copy editor usually writes the headline, and always does the fine-tooth-comb editing to make sure street names are spelled right, dates match up, we’re not saying DUI when we mean DWI. Copy editors know more about the city, state, region and world than anyone else in the newsroom. Copy editors have saved me so many times I lost count long ago. All reporters make mistakes — it’s inevitable on a constant deadline — but a good copy editor is an All-Star catcher, snagging every wild pitch.