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 jemcintyre@gmail.com, 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/.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Turn out the lights

When a notable actor expires, they dim the lights on Broadway in a brief tribute.

It was confirmed yesterday that Media General will consolidate the copy editing of its newspapers in Tampa, Richmond, and Winston-Salem — the chain’s three largest papers. You may be sure that this does not mean an enlargement of the copy editing staff, but a reduction in both the staff and the quality of editing.

To his credit, Ken Otterbourg, the managing editor at Winston-Salem, resigned. One reason was his disagreement over this measure.

Also yesterday, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis announced that it is reducing the news staff by thirty positions, more than half of them from the ranks of copy editors. The memo says that the paper will not sacrifice quality. Uh-huh.

These are the false economies by which publishers are steadily degrading the quality of what they offer readers, by destroying a craft.

In sympathy with colleagues incontinently turned out of their jobs, and in sorrow over the devastation of the craft of editing, You Don’t Say will go dark for twenty-four hours.

Posting and approval of comments will resume tomorrow.