‘I Need Copy Editors To Know That…A Florida Cracker Is Not Something You Eat’

An old Roy Peter Clark column on copy editors is getting some attention. The gist of it is that while more newspapers outsource their copyediting functions to the town next door or even the country on the other side of the world, while you can train someone to understand your local idiom and grammar, you can’t necessarily outsource institutional knowledge.

Roy Peter Clark wrote that it’s copyeditors who have helped him know that “Eva Longoria is not the wife of Tampa Bay Rays baseball phenom Evan Longoria….a Florida cracker is not something you eat, and that it may or may not be offensive to some readers….that Jim Morrison of The Doors went to St. Pete Junior College, that beat writer Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Fla., but is buried in Lowell, Mass. I want them to know that Lakewood High School is different from Lakewood Ranch High School. I want them to know that 54th Avenue North in St. Petersburg is 108 blocks north of 54th Avenue South.

“I’d like to think that I’m a pretty bright guy, but…you don’t want me to copy edit the work of Indian journalists in New Delhi,” he added. “National origin matters. Community matters. Culture matters.”

The final sentence of this article: “New Delhi was misspelled in the original version of this article.”

We’d have assumed this was intentional, except that the column was originally posted in 2008. Instead, we’re going with “incredibly ironic.”

INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT UPDATE: Here is an epic New York Times correction that proves that newspapering is such a broad field that even the locals don’t always get it right. But really, at what other job are you expected to know not just baseball but Lord of the Rings references?