Word is spinning around the Internet of two divisions of Media News Group that plan to move copy editing to the “content-generation level.” What does that mean? We don’t know for sure — developments in Denver await a formal meeting, those at Bay Area News Group seem to be more public knowledge — but it seems to be along the same lines as what was done when the rim editors were laid off in Minneapolis and what San Diego’s new owners called “not having a traditional copy desk.”
Steve Myers of the Poynter Institute is reporting today that BANG – which consists of the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, and a number of smaller titles – and the Denver Post are expected to cut copy editors and “shift” their responsibilities to front-line editors or reporters.
We admit, the decision of how to keep the doors open during these tough times isn’t an easy one. Cutting editing may seem like a no-brainer since you can’t have content to copy edit if you can’t afford to pay any reporters.
To us, it seems a bit of a no-brainer that you’ve wasted all your pay on reporters, editors, photographers, newspapers and websites if you put out content that people don’t understand.
Editing has value — a value that is real and can be measured. Fred Vultee’s research has proved that.
Instead of stamping our feet in frustration, we thought we’d tell you what value you’ll be losing if you cut your copy desk:
1. People will not pay for crap — or at least not enough to keep you in business.
2. A libel suit for a carelessly written story can cost more than a copy editor’s salary.
3. Copy editors are more than gatekeepers. They provide the ability to “connect the dots” among the work of hundreds. They ensure your content reinforces your brand.
4. Readers never forgive publications for misspelling their names.
5. Copy editors can ask the question a reader will likely ask before publication, saving the editors time, resources and apologies.
6. Copy editors are the masters of display type: headlines, summaries, refers, captions, eblast subject lines, Twitter and FB posts.
7. Headline writing is a specialized skill, and headlines can make or break a story in print and online.
8. Reporters think like reporters. Editors think like editors. Copy editors think like readers.
9. Reporters need to focus on reporting. Editors need to focus on directing reporters and shaping the story. The time reporters invest in copy editing, writing headlines and writing display type will dilute that focus.
10. Most importantly, copy editors are your final, objective gatekeepers. They are the ones who are outside the content-producing process who can tell the emperor he’s not wearing clothes. Trust me. You do not want the public to see your content when it’s naked.