Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Corrections at The Times

I'm finally getting around to reading my "Kill Duck Before Serving: Red Faces at The New York Times." I doubt it's something I'll read straight through. But the introduction I can handle, and this caught my eye. It's written by Allan Siegal, about the introduction of computers to newspapers:
An economic salvation for the papers, no doubt, but a pity: those regiments of keyboard operators and proofreaders were the best-educated of craft workers, and their incidental discoveries rescued many a writer's reputation. Word processing, by contrast, ensures a narrow kind of accuracy -- "what you see is what you get" -- but leaves reporters at the mercy of their own typing and proofreading.

... Editors form the last bastion. Normally an article for the daily paper passes through at least three pairs of hands -- those of a story editor, a copy editor and finally the copy chief. The Times's copy desk, probably the largest in American journalism, numbers 160 men and women, each hired with years of experience. They are chosen for their news judgment, their grasp of language and their flair for arcana. Their first duty is to check stories for fairness, logic and coherent structure. They also write headlines. In remaining moments -- if moments remain -- they check first names, middle initials, dates, places and, for example, whether The Times's "house style" calls for East Side or east side, catalog or catalogue.
Food for thought.

Siegal also mentions this quote from Arthur Sulzberger that is worth repeating: "I don't think we lose anything by admitting our errors. Rather, I think it strengthens our position."


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