Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hubs | Charles Apple: Keep copy editing local

Widely read blogger and former Des Moines Register graphics director Charles Apple has said Gannett's planned five page design and production hubs can be done well, under the right conditions.

In a new post, however, he says consolidation of copy editing at any newspaper would be a mistake. "Copy editors are best kept on-site," he wrote this week. "And that’s for the record."

I've been told about at least one cluster of GCI newspapers where copy editing will be consolidated at one location, as part of the hub rollout over the next two years. Although that's apparently not part of the official plan for locally produced content, there's nothing I know of to prevent local publishers and executive editors from doing so on their own. After all, local control is local control.

Copy editing is a crucial part of newspaper production. It includes a final review of facts, grammar, spelling, syntax and other text, plus photographs and graphics. Copy editors also write headlines. (And they answer late-night phone calls from sometimes-crazy readers; do additional reporting for stories that need work, and generally keep the world from falling into total chaos. That's why we cherish them.)

A bagpiping farewell
GCI's five hubs will build pages for all 81 U.S. community dailies. They'll be at newspapers in Asbury Park, N.J.; Des Moines; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, and Phoenix.

Apple wrote about copy editing's future on the occasion of the 61,906-circulation Winston-Salem Journal's farewell to its copy desk last week. The Media General daily in North Carolina -- one of 18 it owns -- is consolidating its production at centers in Richmond, Va., and Tampa, Fla. On Friday, the paper gave its editors a poignant sendoff that included bagpipers marching through the newsroom:


  1. What a heartwarming, and heartbreaking, tribute to the Winston-Salem Journal's copy desk. And what guts it must have taken to produce it!

    Shame on Media General.
    Shame on Gannett, too, for seeing the writing on the wall and ignoring it.

  2. For a second I thought you were referring to Steve Jobs.

  3. Breaking News...V.P production visits Deer Valley Center in Phoenix. Entire computer systems crash. BProduction in building comes to a halt. Multiple computer systems affected

  4. We haven't had true copy editors at the La. papers since the production consolidation at a single site last year. Our section editors are the only ones actually reading copy (everything from the calendar listings to investigative packages). The production staffers simply paginate, write headlines, and sometimes cut stories to fit a space. There's no cross-check of photos, text, captions and graphics, except on the biggest packages. There's no last-minute reporting or hole-filling by editors at my paper. They don't have time.

  5. Our site hasn't had true copy editors in years, if ever (i've only been here 10). The page designers are responsible for all design, wire story selection, copy editing, headline writing, etc. I think there's 5 of them left now - midsize paper. They created a copy editor (singular) ahead of the design studios. One.

  6. The "Copy Desk Farewell" video was painful to watch.

    Not only is it clear that Media General made a mistake by shutting down its copy desk, it's also apparent that whoever made the video doesn't have enough video skills to try to compete for a job in the broadcast media.

  7. Keep the copy editors and outsource the corporate minions, who can't write, edit, or report but have the gall to run "information centers."

  8. Good work by IT crew had systems crawling back to life within two hours, Mail room computers, Press computers, plate-making computers even the robots that deliver paper was affected. Entire days schedule behind schedule. A rainy day in Phoenix for sure.

  9. I think *some* of the larger papers will keep a core copy editing staff to work local stories. All wire copy, though, will go through the hubs.

  10. Define "larger papers."

  11. What a great video. So real. Thanks for posting it. And thank you, copy editors, wherever you are - from a reporter who you've saved many a time. Long, long, long may you run.

  12. Allow me to respond to the critical post above regarding the production values in this video. It was produced by two print reporters who have virtually no experience shooting or editing video. They did it as a gesture of care and thanks, on their own time, and we have all been deeply touched by it. May you all be surrounded by people who care for you equally as much.

  13. I keep hearing reassurances that local copy will continue to be proofed on site, but I wonder how long that will last.

    Gannett and quality are two words that don't mesh. Over the past 20 or so years Gannett has become increasingly identified with substandard products. The company has also created considerable ill will in communities it supposedly served.

    Anyone who doubts this should do a reader survey including former readers.

    The Gannettoids in corporate LOVE surveys. But see how fast they ignore results unfavorable to their own opinions and goals.

  14. At my site, no one really edits the local copy now. When I read the newspaper I am appalled at what gets through. It actually embarrasses me. They have three editors on during the day, and one night "editor," who assuredly is no editor.


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