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Newspapers increasingly eliminating copy editors, shifting copy editing duties to reporters

Faced with budget cuts due to declining circulations and ad revenues, newspapers across North America are moving behind paywalls, announcing they are cutting print editions, and laying off employees. When it comes to layoffs, more and more copy editors -- the ones responsible for ensuring grammar and spellings are correct - are getting the short end of the stick, and content producers -- reporters and editors -- are taking over copy editors' former duties.

The Denver Post recently announced that it is eliminating its copy desk entirely. Instead of dedicated copy editors, reporters and assignment editors will be responsible for copy editing duties, which will be spread throughout the newsroom.

And now Canada's leading newspaper publishing company, Postmedia Network Canada Corp., which publishes the Vancouver Sun, the Star Phoenix and the Leader-Post, is not only experimenting with a paywall and suspending publishing Sunday and Monday print editions of various of its newspapers, but also laying off copy editors as it "consolidates" editorial duties, according to Postmedia News.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times announced that it, too, is shifting copy editing duties as part of a digital-first strategy to get copy editing done earlier so content can be published faster, according to Poynter.

Similarly, earlier in May the Salt Lake Tribune said it is laying off copy editors as part of a newsroom restructuring, in which "copy-editing and page-design functions, along with some copy editors and designers, will be integrated with existing news-gathering and content-producing teams."

As Steve Myers of Poynter points out, these "new approaches have more in common with Web publishing than the old systems." Still, less copy editing most likely will mean more errors.

Even without the copy editing reductions in full effect, the Denver Post misspelled "spiral" in a headline recently, and Canada's National Post mistakenly ran the answers to that day's crossword puzzle, just the day after Postmedia announced its copy editing layoffs.


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