For those in the business of words, copy editors are considered the “safety nets,” the meticulous proofreaders who catch everything from spelling mistakes to major factual errors.
And in the era of “fake news,” averting error is more important than ever.
For these reasons and others, employees at the New York Times are outraged over a recent decision to eliminate the newspaper’s stand-alone copy desk, a team that includes more than 100 copy editors. These editors have been invited to apply for about 50 available positions.
The imminent staff cuts are part of a broader effort at the Times to restructure the operation of the newsroom, an attempt to “streamline” by reducing the layers of editing. But copy editors say the move has forced them into a “humiliating process of justifying our continued presence at The New York Times.”
Other employees across the newsroom share their anger. Hundreds of Times employees staged a walkout on Thursday afternoon to protest the cuts. Employees from various corners of the newsroom left their desks, walked down to the ground floor and marched around the building near Times Square. They carried signs displaying a slew of copy errors:
“Without us, it’s the New Yrok Times”
“Copy editors save our buts”
“This sign wsa not edited”
“We kneed are editors! They make us look smart.”
The hope, according to a letter from the New York NewsGuild, was that “the utter silence of a suddenly cleared out newsroom, and the news coverage of the event,” would send a “powerful message of discontent.”
Though Thursday’s walkout was brief, it resonated across social media. Former and current reporters and editors tweeted in support of the protest, recalling moments in which copy editors came to their rescue.
The protest followed letters from copy editors and reporters to Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s executive editor, and Joseph Kahn, the managing editor, pleading for reconsideration of the decision or at least for an increase in the number of available editing positions.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Samantha Schmidt