Roy Peter Clark at Poynter tells reporters about the importance of collaboration. On copy editors, he says:
Ignore the traditional antagonism that leads writers to believe that copy editors are vampires who work at night and suck the life out of stories. Think, instead, of copy editors as the champions of standards, as invaluable test readers, as your last line of defense. I once wrote a story about two brothers with terrible physical handicaps. The boys had been separated for several years. I described the wonderful reunion of the brothers, how they watched cartoons and fed each other "Fruit Loops." A copy editor, Ed Merrick, called me to check on the story. He offered his praise for a job well done, but said he had sent a news clerk down to the supermarket (this was before the convenience of the Internet) to check on the spelling of "Fruit Loops." Sure enough, the correct spelling was "Froot Loops." Nice catch. The last thing I wanted was for the reader to notice this mistake, especially at a high point in the story. Years later, I would see Ed and give him the thumbs-up sign in gratitude for his Froot Loops fix. Talk to copy editors. Learn their names. Embrace them as fellow writers and lovers of language.I appreciate the sentiment here. It's true: Copy editors are not vampires who suck the life out of stories. Ahem.
I do question his story, though. Yes, it's important to get the facts straight. Froot Loops was indeed misspelled. But that's the best example Clark could come up with?
No bad telephone numbers? No bad addresses? No bad URLs?
He had no stories of libel averted? Errors of fact that would have embarrassed the paper?
Focusing on the trivial things copy editors fix every night does us a disservice. I appreciate Clark's urging reporters to just get along with copy editors. But there are bigger reasons than Froot Loops.