Re. Declining editorial standards in newspapers?

Subject: Re. Declining editorial standards in newspapers?
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 12 May 1995 12:24:35 LCL

The issue of declining editorial standards for newspapers was
addressed eloquently and in detail by a correspondent in the
copyediting list (I believe Alex Johnson fo the Washington Post, but
can't confirm this because I've discarded the digest... so don't quote
me). Here's my synopsis (not a paraphrase!), supplemented by a few
personal observations:

One vital reason for decreased quality is very simple: newspapers are
increasingly less profitable, and can't afford to hire enough editors
to keep up with the writers. The few editors they do hire are
overwhelmed with work, and working under extremely tight deadlines, a
breeding ground for errors. When it comes down to a choice between
revising or deleting libelous, questionable, inaccurate, confusing
(etc. etc.) text or slaying typos and minor grammatical infractions,
which would you choose?

When I freelance, I have the luxury of turning down rush jobs that I
know I can't do well because of time pressures. (I work full time, so
I can't just take off a day whenever I want to do freelance stuff.) I
don't know if other editors work the same way that I do, but I like to
take two passes through any document (two being a barely acceptable
minimum): once, slowly, to get the facts straight and clear, and a
second time, to polish up grammar and anything I missed the first
time. If I can proofread to make sure they made the corrections I
requested, I'll do that too. On a newspaper, you generally don't have
this luxury... one kick at the can is all you get.

These things considered, it's a wonder that newspapers aren't worse
off than they are. I know that I'm only about 75% satisfied with half
of my work... the 50% of the stuff that I do under tight deadline
pressure, from September through December, when the crunch comes.
Since I'm employed, I can't simply say "screw the deadlines... I'll
take as long as I need", and the result is lower quality. I live with
that. The remaining 50% of my work, I take my time and I'm nearer to
90% satisfied, and aiming for higher.

--Geoff Hart #8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: These comments are my own and don't represent the opinions
of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada.


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