Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Union shops

I'm a fan of unions (always wanted the "Unions: The folks that brought you weekends" T-shirt). I'll admit that I sometimes cringe at the strict contract delineations ("no, copy editors can't write a story; contract won't allow it). But I've gotta give three cheers to the Newspaper Guild for putting its foot down in this case.

Gannett papers are moving away from newsrooms and to "information centers." What does that mean for copy editors?
"Look, we've got some hurdles to get over, as an industry and as a company. Cultural hurdles and technological hurdles," said Gregory Korte, an investigative journalist with the Cincinnati Enquirer who has been working to implement some of these ideas at the paper. At some point, he says, it's going to get painful. "The newspaper of the future is going to need more programmers than copy editors, and we're going to have to figure out how to make that transition."
Everyone will be rethinking their roles, learning to do more jobs. I get it.

But at the Indianapolis Star, the transition is hitting a snag. The union is on board, it says. But there are some sticking points:
The union said it was stunned to hear suggestions from Editor Dennis Ryerson ... that reporters could be assigned to write for advertorial sections, a proposal later amended to include only copy editors and other newsroom employees who do not get bylines or photo credits.
No way, the union said. From its memo:
o editorial employees -- this includes but is not limited to reporters, copy editors, editors, photographers, designers, graphic artists, editorial writers, paraprofessionals, online editors/producers/staffers, librarians, clerks and copy messengers -- will be involved in any advertorial work. We cannot stress how important this is, both for the integrity of the entire staff and the credibility of The Star. We were stunned that the company proposed this, at first suggesting that newsroom reporters could write advertorial copy. When we protested that strongly, the company said, "Well, what about copy editors and designers?'' All editorial employees are held to the same, high ethical standards, not just those with bylines or photo credits.
That's really basic stuff. I'd be worried about a management team that wasn't on board.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ah, proofreaders

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
We're missing a human remedy from the Stone Age that would erect a mighty backup defense against errors that no computer program or harried staffer on deadline could match: proofreaders, those wonderful thinkers, grammarians, spellers and widely read all-around trivia experts from yesteryear. Their roles were absorbed by technology and loaded onto copy editors, and we've paid the price in inaccuracies ever since.