Friday, April 30, 2010

New media needs more, not fewer, copy editors

Comments by the New York Times' Bill Keller during a discussion of the future of journalism prompted me to think that maybe American editors are going about this journalism thing the wrong way.

Keller praised work of the Times and the Huffington Post during the recent struggle in Iran: "Both [Arianna's] site and ours, also the Atlantic and Andrew Sullivan, during the Iran crisis all did this wonderful act of hybrid journalism about a place where the actual reporters had been kicked out, and the Iranian reporters had been thrown in jail" Keller said. "And using people on the street combined with the expertise of professional journalists to arrange, package, vet this material...we're finding more and more that having that wall be open means that journalism is a collaborative process."

Of particular interest is his comment about using people on the street "with the expertise of professional journalists." That sounds a lot like professional copy editors shaping up work of amateur reporters. This is the successful format of Korea's which has few if any reporters, but a team of copy editors bringing professional editing to amateur posts.

It's a system that I believe could produce good journalism. Unfortunately many American publishers are opting to cut copy editing, including eliminating all of them in some cases. I'd link to the layoffs of copy editors but there are far too many of them.

It seems to me that, since all of us need editing, the growing use of untrained reporters should dictate more, not fewer, copy editors.

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