Sunday, May 13, 2012

USAT | We don't kneed no stinkin' copy editors!

First in an occasional series about the impact of cuts in copyediting across Gannett. 

This morning, USA Today is carrying a Detroit Free Press story online about student loan debt. Word for word, we see the following sidebar tacked to the bottom of the story:


Types of federal student loans(AT)

The two main types of federally subsidized loans available are:

Perkins loan:(AT)

A 5(PERCENT) loan for students with financial need. The loan is federally funded and supplemented by the university.

Available for up to $5,500 for each year of undergraduate study, or a total of $27,500.

Repayment begins six or nine months after the person leaves school, depending on promissory note provisions.

Subsidized(AT) Stafford loan:(AT)

A loan with an interest rate currently capped at 3.4(PERCENT), but that rate will double unless Congress acts by July 1 to freeze it.

Students can borrow up to $3,500 their first year, $4,500 their second year and $5,500 their third year and beyond -- up to a maximum of $31,000, of which only $23,000 can be subsidized by the federal government.

Interest does not accrue until graduation on subsidized Stafford loans. Borrowers must start repaying six months after graduation, or if they drop below half-time student status.

Since 2005, the loans are not dischargeable by filing for bankruptcy.

Got an example for this series? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Cincinnati's editor came up with a solution months ago.


    From: Washburn, Carolyn
    Sent: Monday, January 23, 2012 1:58 PM
    To: CIN-News Users
    Subject: FW: Bad grammatical errors and spelling

    This is actually one of the most frequent complaints I get. Really every day.

    It is a really good thing for us word folks that we have readers who care about words. So I take them seriously and reflect on what they have to say.

    Also, it is simply true that there are fewer layers of editing to catch us when we fall. So it is up to each of us to re-read our work with clean copy in mind and ensure each of us passes along copy that can be published right now with all the basic facts, spelling and grammar correct.

    So, in the spirit of being helpful -- I really don't mean this to be insulting but helpful -- what would you think about having an English teacher review our paper for a week, identify our most common grammatical sins and come in and give us grammatical refresher for grownups? (actually give us some helpful tools rather than me just ask you to work harder!)

    I'm open to your thoughts or other ideas that don't involve adding more people or working harder!

  2. As a well-noted social observer once said: "What a Maroon!"

  3. From: Washburn, Carolyn
    Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 9:25 AM
    To: CIN-News Users
    Subject: Reader complaints

    Sorry to say I had three of these today. It makes me really sad.

    Yes, we don't have proofreaders anymore. But we still have reporters and editors. Please, please spellcheck, re-read your story before you send it on, print it out and read it on paper before you send it on... Whatever techniques work for you. But each of us need to be responsible for the professionalism of our content.

  4. Carolyn's making great progress cleaning up that Enquirer copy. Take this cutline from Saturday's Home cover: "The freize (sic) pops out of the middle of the Rookwood fireplace in East Walnut Hills residents Dr. Warren Liang and Fred Martens." And this one (same story): " ... a cousin of Jacob Fechheimer, who family lived in the house." And this one (same story): "A freize (sic) with the signature is embedded in the Rookwood fireplace." And wait, there's more! Yet another cutline (same story): "This vase owned Riley Humler was made by Rookwood artist Rose Fechheimer. Humler matched the oak leaves ... in the Feccheimer House." Feccheimer? Or Fechheimer? Sadly, this is the kind of story our oldest and most educated Cincinnati readers would want to read. How many of them threw their papers away in disgust? This isn't something a lesson from an English teacher can prevent. This is Carolyn cutting the heart out of the newsroom. We're bleeding out.

  5. Just for the record, Hopkins, since you once again make assumptions without doing any actual reporting:

    There have been no copy editing cutbacks at USA Today. There are not enough copy editors, especially for the volume of material we are moving every day, but for all the years of cutbacks, from buyouts to layoffs, not one copy editor has been let go. Not one.

    There is one editor who left voluntarily who has not been replaced, but that is the extent of the copy editor cutbacks your breathless post seems to suggest.

    Yes that should have been caught (although it is more a formatting thing than a copy edit thing), but we are working incredibly hard.

    Are we short-handed for a 24/7 world? Yes. But have there been copy editing reductions, as your post asserts. No.

    It is hard enough without you making up stuff on a lazy afternoon.

  6. Those clueless memos show how far Washburn is in over her head. She set up an unworkable system and all she knows how to do is abuse her staff for not making her unworkable system work. How someone like that can be in charge of a newsroom says all you need to know about Gannett.

  7. It's all the fault of the incompetent editors and reporters Washburn hasn't run away yet. It's never her fault.

    Perhaps if editors also sold advertising, maybe she'd keep more of them around.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. The memo was at least entertaining. Bring in an English teacher (most likely as an unpaid intern-type) for people who have college degrees in this field!

    So when mistakes happen, rather than recognize that they are due to ridiculous workloads and "get it up, wrong or right" resulting from Gannett's own slash-and-burn policy, one of the geniuses thinks bringing in a English teacher is not insulting.

    Well, it is. You create profound obstacles to practice the craft and then think the resultant crap is surely "Hey! I've got it! A refresher in English for the peasants!"

    As one poster stated, what a maroon. Very sad.

  10. Nothing is ever Washburn's fault. I don't know of a single time she's ever taken responsibility for anything. Good managers, like the departed Joe Fenton, inspire confidence, loyalty, motivation and bring out the best in their employees. Washburn's nasty management style and personal viciousness has been a big part of how she turned the Enquirer into a joke. Hiring an expensive "story teller" who can't write and remaking the twentieth floor into a monument to herself isn't going to turn things around.

  11. We get that a couple of people who continue to post over and over (and over) what a louse they think Washburn is. Or Crotchfeldt. Or Gracia. Or Dubow. Pick the exec who is the flavor of the week around here. But guess what? None of them wrote the lousy cutline or the lousy USAT sidebar.

  12. What Washburn did write were those moronic memos, admitting that readers complain daily about the decline in editing and showing she has no clue about fixing it. Since her January memo about the English teacher, the Enquirer has lost five of its most experienced copy editors.

    Another thing she wrote was a recent column where she bungled the name of a high school that's only a few miles from the one she attended. She even put a CQ mark next to the mistake. Her error was caught by, yes, an editor.

    Think that made her more humble? Nothing can.

  13. Jim has been wearing the diaper most of the weekend.

    Before that, he was getting shredded. 2:02 continues the shredding.

    Someone else suggested there should be a daily questioning of why the discussions here aren't more intelligent. Instead of a reasonable talk about Gannett's issues, we have repeated whining from the people who post over and over (and over and over).

  14. People keep blaming Washburn. But these sound like writing mistakes that are getting into the paper. When do the writers take some responsibility?

    It's pretty sad when professional writers keep making the same mistakes again and again. It's almost as if they are unable to learn or develop.

  15. 2:02,
    I think I would have rather you told us USAT has far fewer copy editors today than in the past. The fact that we are almost fully staffed and this kind of thing goes unnoticed is even more worrisome, don't you think?

    1. Lazy, uninspired and unmotivated for the most part. mistakes are not addressed except with shoulder shrugs.

      who is accountable for the oversight?

  16. Copy editors need to pay a lot more attention to the content and the copy. they dont know whats in the paper or website and dont seem to care.

  17. 4:25, that could be a good point or even an accurate one, if you threw in the word "some" in a few places.

    But that doesn't address what I asked earlier. Aren't many of these mistakes created by writers who don't fix things in their own copy and who make the same mistakes, again and again and again?

  18. I used to see many basic errors in raw copy that editors cleaned up routinely. It's funny, you can see them now on the reporters' Facebook posts.

  19. Some observations by an alumnus:


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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