Findings: checking, thinking, and the language

Mostly via my friend Pam Robinson —

 Who needs editors? David Montgomery, CEO of Mecom, a European newspaper company, sees little use for sub editors (or “copy editors” for us Yanks), now that there are instantaneous options in digital media.

“Never before has a journalist been able to reach out to their audience without intervention,” Montgomery said, according to the Press Gazette of the United Kingdom.

He’s not wild but senior editors either: ““I come from a world where editor-in-chiefs are control freaks who want to control every word.”

The American Copy Editors Society disagrees. But we’re biased. The International Federation of Journalists is not.

“The elimination of editing altogether of journalists’ work will have a potentially disastrous impact on quality and lower public confidence, adding to the current decline,” said Aidan White, general secretary of the IFJ.

Montgomery says, “Sub-editing is a twilight world, checking things you don’t really need to check. … Senior people will always monitor the content, a core group will create the product.”

We need more checking, more critical thinking, and higher quality, not less.

Remember “President Dewey,” Janet Cooke, Richard Jewell, Jayson Blair, and Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction? There are a lot of other mistakes you don’t hear about, because an editor kept prevented them from publication.

For that matter, we should have challenged the war rhetoric after Sept. 11.  As I started saying years ago, what does a “war on terror” really mean?

Checking the language is more than moving commas around. In the Columbia Journalism Review, Brent Cunningham advocates a rhetoric beat.

If I were in New York, I would have gone to “There You Go Again: Orwell Comes to America.” It was a conference to “assess the current state of public discourse — and journalism’s response to it — one year before a hotly contested presidential election.”


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Your former colleague, Andy Bechtel, has a good take, too.

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