John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Those damn copy editors again
Now, according to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser, the student, Kris DeRego, has come up with a novel explanation: It’s the copy editors’ fault. His articles, he says, were “adulterated” on the copy desk.
The faculty adviser to the paper, Jay Hartwell, found it odd that no other reporters for the paper had complained about such bungling on the copy desk, and he found it additionally odd that other names in the articles, such as faculty members, were correct.
Mark Brislin, the editor of the student paper, Ka Leo O Hawaii, said that DeRego, asked to supply names, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses for the twenty-nine questionable sources, submitted five. Only one of the five responded.
It would be idle to pretend that copy editors do not make mistakes, even inserting errors into texts — I bear the scars of many such lapses myself. But I have also seen over the years how tempting it is for some reporters to condemn the copy desk before determining the facts. The human reflex to shift blame elsewhere, especially on a target group, is quite strong. Any number of times I have reported to work to take up the day’s fresh complaints, discovering frequently on examination that the reporter actually made the error, or the originating editor made the error, or even, on some occasions, that there was actually no error.
I’m not privy to Mr. DeRego’s work or the work of the Ka Leo copy desk, but the reported information casts a shadow over his explanation, as well as over his work.