Wednesday, September 15, 2004

And that's how editors were born

Ever wonder how little readers understand about the day-to-day operations of a newspaper? Read this ombud column from the Sacramento Bee.

When Tony Marcano got some grief from readers about story edits, he was dumbfounded at the cause: Readers couldn't believe that what made it into the paper was not the mirror image of what came over on the wires.

Readers were upset to learn that editors were taking words, even sentences out. One wrote:
When did it become acceptable to split a sentence in such a manner, even for space concerns? Granted, it's a small change, but it leads to another key point in the article. ...

"Given that trust in the media is fragile enough, why doesn't The Bee flag print articles that are edited for space? At a minimum, it would be true disclosure. This 'flag' could point the user to The Bee's website for the full, unedited version.
Flag every story that has been edited down? I mean, have you ever read any story that you didn't pare down some? Remove some obfuscation? End a sentence a tad earlier?

The national editor at the Bee came up with some good explanations of why we do what we do. It's just remarkable that people find subterfuge in everything.


At 10:51 PM, September 15, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bet my life on it, but I bet piddly complaints like this shoot through the roof when elections near. It's partisanship -- on both sides of the aisle -- that makes people see the worst in everyday things.

At 9:59 AM, September 16, 2004, Blogger Mike said...

You guys obviously don't recognize the fact that a reporter's words are sacred.


At 11:41 AM, September 17, 2004, Blogger Etaoin Shrdlu said...

One point I forgot to make about this among the testy editors: At the newspapers where I worked, the understaffed Web editors are just posting what's in the paper. If you have them search down every wire version and post something on line, the editors might get to the other four-fifths of their work about nine hours later.


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