By TOM HONIG
Call it the next step in the slow death of the print newspaper business: copy editors are being laid off.
The copy editor is the silent representative of the newspaper reader -- the one who historically never gets his name in the paper but who is a key cog in the publishing wheel. The copy editor is the one who knows "'who" from "whom" and whether you lie down or lay down. It's the often-ignored copy editor who manages taste, style and accuracy -- ideally -- in the hastily put-together piece of chaos known as the daily paper.
But as economic realities continue to lay waste to the legacy business of newspapers, it's the copy editors who are next in the layoff chute. Reporters and photographers already have been put out to pasture in great numbers. And so have pure copy editors -- the ones who just read copy and then turned things over to the production people. But now comes the next step -- as news continues to go digital, news executives are turning to the idea reporters themselves (they're now known as "content generators") handling the editing jobs themselves.
The Denver Post has announced a major upcoming change (the Post is owned by MediaNews Group, the same owner of the Sentinel and San Jose Mercury News). Editor Gregory Moore -- a good guy himself -- sent out the following memo to the staff (courtesy of the Poynter Institute)
We have focused our attention on consolidating steps in the editing process so that traditional copy editing is done at the content-generating level. That is going to result in a reduction in the ranks of copy editors. Following this, virtually every job in the newsroom will change in some way. The editing and crafting of our copy will have to be shared throughout the newsroom.
Expect this trend to continue.
It's good copy-editing that has distinguished the best newspapers in America. But as the form of delivering news changes, copy editing is a step that doesn't pass the economic test. Newspapers now compete with online, with radio and television, and none of those news organizations care much about a higher quality of writing. Blogs (including this one) exist without that extra degree of care.
It's a sign of the times. Self-publishing moves ahead, and legacy businesses are forced to change their economic model. But it ain't a good thing.