February 6, 2013

King’s Journalism Review
The decline of newspapers has fallen especially hard on copy editors, Natascia Lypny writes.

Copy editors have been sacrificed more than any other newsroom category. Nearly a third of the copy editors who were working for American daily newspapers in 2007 are no longer employed in those positions today, according to an American Society of News Editors’ survey of 985 publications.

The figures are actually worse if you go back another few years: ASNE’s annual survey of newsrooms, released last April, found 10,676 copy editors in 2002, 5,675 in 2012. I should have noted in the first iteration of this post that over that timespan, the copy editor category has also included layout editors and online producers, but taken as one, that’s a 46 percent decrease in a decade during which reporting positions fell 26 percent and supervisory positions fell 24 percent.

Lypny’s piece includes a dandy visual history of copy-editing that shows how it went from a managerial position to a coglike field that has proven irresistible to cost-cutters. She describes some of the typical tensions between copy editors and reporters in a rather snazzy video:

Copy editors who remain on the job, Lypny writes, often find themselves in centralized hubs or handling Web production as well. Reporters are sometimes tasked with picking up copy-editing, which former New York Times Copy Chief Merrill Perlman compares to “asking a minivan owner to drive an 18-wheeler on an icy road,” Lypny writes.

“It’s not so much the laying off of the copy editors — although that galls me because it’s short-sighted,” Perlman tells Lypny, “but it’s also the lack of acknowledging that there’s a gap that needs to be filled and investing in a little bit a training to get that gap filled.”

Related: Denver Post, Bay Area News Group revamp story editing with fewer copy editors | ‘Downward sprial’ for Denver Post copy editing?

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
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