New York Times Journalists Aren’t the Only Ones Defending Copy Editors

The Times' walkout yesterday inspires Diana Moskovitz's copy editor appreciation

The name of Deadspin senior editor Diana Moskovitz’s post about The New York Times’ decision to cut a large number of its copy editors is called “The New York Times Is Killing Its Soul,” but it’s less a criticism and more an appreciation for the work of editors and exactly how their work runs through everything a paper puts out:

Every American newspaper lives and dies by its copy desk. The size of the paper, the location, the history, the budget, and who owns it don’t matter. When you kill the copy desk, you might just as well rip out the heart, the lungs, the brains, and the soul, and then dance on the lifeless remains. This is true even—especially—if that paper is the Times.

There is no such thing as a newspaper without a copy desk. You can get rid of almost everything else—the layers of high-ranking editors with fancy titles about whom everyone whispers “What do they do?” when their names come up; the endless stream of consultants who promise they can unlock the key to younger readers (for a hefty fee); the hours of internal political maneuvering over which articles land on the front page—and the newspaper will be fine. Most readers probably would never notice.

This era in which we contemplate how to promote and teach media literacy to the public is also in era in which some journalists may never have had their work pass through a copy desk, and so Moskovitz’s post on a copy editor’s purpose, and the ways in which copy editors catch things which otherwise might have been disastrous, or at least embarrassing, for a writer is an education for many:

I am here at Deadspin because of Miami Herald copy editors. They saved my young ass more times than I care to admit. They taught me things about my own community that I never knew but which, of course, they did, having spent decades editing stories about everything and everyone in it. I listened to them debate headlines, discuss layouts, and push back against stories that (years before bloggers proved this point) were too damn long. Herald copy editors loved a good headline and knew it was as important as the story, another value bloggers celebrate in full glory.

Read the entire piece here.