John McIntyre: Expect first drafts, quickly edited, after Denver Post eliminates copy desk

The Baltimore Sun | Poynter |

The Sun's John McIntyre writes that he is "deeply skeptical" that the Denver Post will be able to change its newsroom culture so that reporters and assigning editors can successfully take over copy editing. The Post is eliminating its copy desk and spreading the remaining nine editors (from a copy desk of 23) throughout the newsroom.

Reporters tend not to be production-oriented. They want to report and write and take as much time as they can. ... Some reporters, as you can see from reading their blogs, cannot even be troubled to run spell-check before publishing.

What you can expect from the copy-editor-free newsroom is a first-draft text from a writer to which someone bearing the title of editor will have made a quick swipe before posting it online. You will notice the typos and lapses in grammar and usage, which stand out. What you may not be so quick to notice is that the reporting is often thin, superficial, uncritical, because no one was there to pose hard questions.

I think McIntyre has identified the problem correctly: It's a matter of culture, not skills. We'll have to see whether, as he predicts, the remaining copy editors — renamed "assistant editors" — will be too buried in their work to teach their colleagues how to write clean copy and clean others'. (Speaking of copy editing, John, it's, not, but I'll take referral traffic wherever I can get it!)

An embarrassing typo in The Register Citizen — "Sixers tie it up again as series shits to Boston" — would seem to bolster McIntyre's argument that cutbacks are resulting in shittier shoddier work. But Matt DiRienzo tells Romenesko that the sports staff is the same size as it's been for at least 10 years and the paper hasn't cut copy editors or changed its editing process. The Register Citizen, like the Denver Post, is a part of Digital First Media. || Related: Charles Apple weighs in on the "War on Copy Editing"

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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