Sunday, September 07, 2003

An article offers an inside look at "Shattered Glass," the movie about journalist Stephen Glass' fabrications. One interesting tidbit, which points out the perils copy editors face so often:
"The thing that is most mortifying about that 'Hack Heaven' article is that a couple of the literary flourishes are things I put in on the editing process," admits Lane, who was a paid consultant on the "Shattered" film.

But how was Lane taken in? "The best I can do for an answer is that I was the last person in the chain, so by the time it got to me, it had been seen by a fact checker, a copy editor and one other substantive editor. So my view of his stories incorporated the assumption that all these other people had an opportunity to check it, and if it got through them, then it was ready to go," Lane explains.
People who read the story before us assume the errors will be fixed when it gets to the copy desk. People who may read the story after us assume we caught all the errors already.

The moral of the story? I guess copy editors have to catch all the errors.

The second moral, though, would have to be that a publication needs to staff enough copy editors to allow them the time to hunt down and fix all these mistakes. Sure, magazines have the luxury of fact checkers that make less sense for newspapers. And news copy editors can't fact-check everything. But we do more than our fair share -- and a little extra staffing would go a long way in rooting out the Jayson Blairs of the industry.

They haven't all been found. Hell, they haven't all been created.


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