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Knight Center


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.


Jerry DeMuth wrote 5 years 44 weeks ago

Copy editor elimination

Often when reading news stories I get thrown off by bad grammar, bad punctuation, bad spelling, etc. and lose focus. I've also been side-tracked by factual errors, such as a story that said that JPMorgan Chase's hedging loss was caused by a rogue trader. A copy editor would correct all these errors.

As a journalist, I often am amazed at what a good editor will catch, and what I missed during my own frequent edits. I can't help but focus on organization, flow, rephrasing for clarity and conciseness, et cetera, no matter how many times I "edit" my own writing, and thus don't catch everything I should. That's what copy editors are for.

And then there's headline writers, a special art in itself. Are reporters now supposed to be responsible for that too? Who can forget the New York Daily News "Drop Dead" headline? Would any reporter write a headline that declaritive?

Guest wrote 5 years 47 weeks ago

Copy editing elimination

The results of this reduction are hardly surprising. As a veteran copy editor who later taught editing at the university level, I am very aware of how often copy editors catch errors, not to mention simply improving the quality of the writing. Much of the time, reporters are the least experienced newspeople in the organization, and the copy editors are the folks with the broad knowledge and experience to recognize potential mistakes. Some errors are merely embarrassing, others can be damaging. We're going to see a lot more of both.

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