The Extermination of Copy Editors

By Matt DiVenere

Copy editors, the silent defenders of the written word, are under attack from multiple fronts and there is nothing they can do to defend themselves.

Was that too dramatic of an opening? Not even close.

When you look at the current state of journalism, copy editors should be the bell of the ball.  Instead, industry giants are rendering copy editors useless—pawns in an unfair game with the deck stacked incredibly against them.

We have been given one of two reasons why this is all unfolding: an industry shift toward more video content and a “lack of readership.” You’ve seen the internal memos being leaked that explain the company’s commitment to “staying with the times” and “responding to our viewers.”

However, the decision to move away from journalism happened a long time ago. It happened very subtly at first. But now that click-bait and video content runs the village, those who seek the written word have become labeled the village idiots.

Although this trend has gone on for much longer than it seems, it’s only come to fruition thanks to the slew of layoffs and restructuring in some of the largest media companies in the world. But there is one group of brave men and women who are standing up for themselves in the only way they know best: through the written word.

If you’re not following what is happening at The New York Times, you should. Not for the reason why you think, however. Yes, it is devastating what is happening to those copy editors. Staff cuts, workload increases, and an overall lack of respect being shown to them make an already thankless job nearly impossible to do.

What happens when our entire society needs information, but has no idea where to go?

I cannot imagine a world where we will question the reporters at the newspaper of record, because that would terrify me. And it should terrify you, too. Where do you turn once your most trusted source becomes null and void? What happens when you have no one to turn to for the truth? For objectivity? What happens when our entire society needs information, but has no idea where to go?

Are you going to believe everything you find on the Internet? Will you believe nothing at all and make up your own narrative as to what is really going on?

Both scenarios are dangerous. Unfortunately, both scenarios are happening right now. We have our political parties labeling news organizations as “fake news” and are more concerned about which way they are politically leaning than what is actually being told. This has sent such a shockwave through the American people to the point where it is now part of the everyday conversation. Instead of trusting a news source and the job it has done vetting the story, the first response is always politically based.

It is the responsibility of a news organization to deliver the facts of the story and to allow its readers the opportunity to start a dialogue and form their own opinions on the matters at hand. It is one of the pillars of journalism in this country. And the facts need to be 100 percent correct, every single time. No exceptions.

By eliminating copy editors and by pinning reporters into a click-bait corner, we are stripping them of their power. We cannot continue down this path. We need to empower them. We need to support them.

So bravo to the brave copy editors at The New York Times. Your stand doesn’t fall on deaf ears. It should be echoed to the masses. Keep fighting.

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