What It’s Really Like to be a Copy Editor

Would you like to be a copy editor? Perhaps for New York magazine? If your experience is anything like Lori Fradkin’s was, your life will be consumed with meaningless trivia that has really no place in the workplace—not just whether you should use an exclamation point in “Panic! At The Disco” (answer: no) but also whether “douche bag” is two words or one and whether “finger-blasting” should be hyphenated. (Ew.)
Plus, as with most journalism jobs*, it’s a lot of work:

When you edit for the Web, you always feel like you’re playing a frantic game of catch-up. Editors may schedule posts to publish at a certain time, and your goal is to give them a read-through before they go live. You don’t leave your desk much. Once, however, we had a company-wide meeting, and I had to let things go unfinished. A co-worker could tell I was antsy about being away and taunted me that there might be typos on the Internet. This immediately struck us as funny because of course there were typos on the Internet—I just didn’t want them on my Internet.

Anyway, copy editing is mostly a thankless job—as Fradkin says, nobody ever looks at an article and thinks “I am certain that, once upon a time, there was a double quote where there should have been a single, and a wise person fixed the issue for my benefit.” But it’s a vital one, and it also happens to be one that seems to be one of the first things to go when a media outlet needs to cut costs.
*See what we did there? We said “most” rather than claiming that hard work is only for online journalists burning out before the age of 30.