Friday, April 11, 2008

Copy-editors: More bitter than being

This weekend, I've gotten to know real-life copy editors, the people who are responsible for making sure my story looks neat and professional by finding errors and asking questions. This, essentially, is all they do: correct stories.

This weekend, I've been attending the conference sessions of the American Copy Editors Society in downtown Denver, and though the sessions are geared mainly towards copy editors and all the great work they do, its been a great learning experience for me, and its been paid for by my beloved student newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian. I am fortunate and for that, I am happy.

I've acquired all the latest info on the various free internet devices that have been available to me for years but I just never bothered looking for them: RSS feeds, Twitter, Furl and the mystery that is the Wiki. I also picked up some tips on legal terminology, plagerism-finding tips, and how I can contribute to making a better headline for the paper edition, and the online edition (there is quite a bit of importance in creating search engine friendly heads, as my friend Virgina told me.)

But beyond all that, I think what astounds me the most is that these real-life professional copy editors are some of the most bitter human beings on the planet. I can understand- copy editing seems like the worst job on the planet. These people boast themselves as the "last line of defense between the news room and the front page", but they don't get any kind of public acknowledgement for such work. It just sounds so horrible, and doing this for years, well, it looks like it'll leave more than a few wrinkles on ya.

The sessions are set up in a way as to where the lecturer kind of engages the audience, and gets them to discuss and even debate. But holy shit, some of these people just love to hear the sound of their own voice, and they will do what it takes to get themselves heard, even if it means interrupting the session leader.

My "Web 2.0" session was a fantastic example. There were several people there who'd just sit back and instead of taking notes, they'd wait their turn to bitch.

"The I-reporter is not a real journalist," one man would say, his chins pushing forward as he nodded in agreement with himself.

"What about people who don't use the internet?" Another woman would say, in response to the session leader's comments that journalists would be required to keep to the internet in order to maintain a competitive edge.

Another woman droned on and on about how terrible it was that everything was becoming so quick and how much was being lost in translation. I really couldn't believe it; these assholes were wasting everyone's time, coming to an internet course, trying as hard as they could to convince everyone in the room that it wasn't too late to return to the world prior to the web.
Thankfully, our session leader had accessed an anger similar to mine.

"Look, no offense, but in the economic sense, you're nothing," he said to the angsty copy-editors among us. "In the economic sense, you're worth nothing. You have to adapt."

And at that, he turned away and began discussing the exciting advantages of Soople, refusing any further conversation. A hardass, by and large, this man was.

I've come to accept that the internet must be embraced if I ever hope to feed my babies. I'm prepared to do so, and I'm prepared to use every little tool to my advantage in carving out amazing media: I want to be the guy who's writing the story, taking the audio, shooting the film, and then bringing it all back to the newsroom, sitting down at my massive three-screen computer, and pumping out something that'd be worth a net value of $500. I'm the new, and I'm going to do what it takes to make it all happen.

Here's to the future; hope I don't end up as bitter as the average copy editor.

1 comment:

Jeff Browne said...

Nice blog, Erik. Good to see you're learning and having a great time.