Thursday, February 10, 2005

There are two problems with the way copy-editing happens. First of all, it happens late. After 3 a.m., I'm just not reading for comprehension. Punctuation and CT style are easy to catch, and even spelling and grammar somewhat, but if the article contradicts itself, or talks in scientific jargon I can barely figure out, or if the second column of an article has nothing to do with the first, there's a good chance I'd miss it completely if I'm reading it that late.

And the second problem is that no one can be as observant on the fifth reading of a page as on the first. Pages easily get printed and edited that often or more, depending on how prepared the section editor is and what section it is. Mistakes that the copy editors didn't notice the first time, mistakes that are in articles or pictures that were added to the page later, mistakes created by accident when the section editors are making the first batch of corrections... After the third time you've read something, you just can't look as closely.

I'm thinking about all this because this morning I was told about a problem with an article. Two problems, actually - not only did the author have a conflict of interest, but a friend of a friend thought the article was just plain bad. So this afternoon I went into the office to see for myself. While I'm looking at the article on the computer, I notice five things wrong with the rest of the page right there. Simple stuff - 'Rwanda' spelled 'Rwada', no period after a word, stuff like that. It should have been caught by me or someone else, and I think those fall under the category of the second problem.

What to do about those? The first problem is just this side of insurmountable, unfortunately. I can get in earlier and do more in the morning and stuff - I was very bad about that this week - but nothing will change the fact that Ed Boards won't be written until Wednesday night, news will go on happening right up until deadline, and so on. But I definitely can improve on the problem - and now that I think of it, there is one thing. Pages themselves might not be ready, but the majority of the articles should be ready by Tuesday night or so. I can just ask people to give me all the text ASAP. That way I won't have to edit for content at 3 a.m. Thursday, because it'll be done before then.

And about the second problem... hmmm, let's get creative. Maybe taking a nap to refresh ourselves? Well, that's impractical, except maybe briefly and in shifts. Maybe if each copy editor took a section, or even or odd pages or something, and never looked at the other section until a certain point when we switched off? That way our eyes wouldn't glaze over at seeing the same thing again, because we wouldn't be seeing the same thing again.

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