I am increasingly frustrated with the lack of editing of articles in my local newspaper. As I have watched the economically-motivated redistribution and elimination of personnel over the past several years, I have also watched the increasingly blatant errors which have resulted from those measures.
An editor, specifically a copy editor, is more than a functionary in the publishing scheme of things. The copy editor is the link between reporting a story and the reader who is drawn to the topic. Many times there is a personal connection to the topic, so blatant errors in facts, spelling, and data become more than irritating. They become personal acknowledgements of failure on the part of the publisher of the newspaper to provide the product the customer has purchased. There are times when I want to put the paper in an envelope, send it back to the publisher and demand my money back. That’s what I would do with another product that was unsatisfactory.
I was stimulated to write this posting by an article which appeared on the front page of the Providence Journal today covering the final day of worship at the Episcopal Cathedral in this city. The pre-Revolutionary War building is beyond repair and must be closed to protect the safety of those entering it. The millions of dollars for appropriate repair are not available and would seem unavailable in the future. In addition, the building is not handicap accessible and simply fails to meet the standards which would make it safe and usable.
The article was filled with errors, particularly as it applied to nomenclature appropriate to the Episcopal Church. For instance, the clergyperson quoted in the article, the Assisting Bishop of Rhode Island was referred to as “The Rev.” when his title is appropriately “The Rt. Rev.” and he was called “Mr. Joslin” at one point. This may not be earth-shattering, but to people already grieving the loss of the Cathedral it added to the frustration. The article identified the Episcopal Church as the second-largest religious community in the State of Rhode Island, so you would think there was more than a passing familiarity with it. The Governor and the Mayor of the second-largest city in the State were identified as communicants of the denomination, as were numerous other notable people whose names appear in the media on a regular basis.
What would it have taken for the journalist or an editor to run the article by someone familiar with the Episcopal Church as a way of spell-checking and detail checking? Wouldn’t you think the Editor would have assigned someone familiar with the Church to either write the article or edit it? If it warranted front page coverage wasn’t it important enough to deserve editing?
This is just a personal matter on my part relating to this specific story. But I am aware that such flagrant problems occur almost daily in the Journal and it must be as frustrating to others who see their organization, event, or incident botched in a similar manner. I am convinced that it is this kind of unprofessional journalism that has led to the diminishing of respect for the printed media. I suppose there is a “chicken or egg” quality to that thought, but it sure doesn’t help in trying to re-establish the importance of a printed media by putting such unprofessional products before the public.
What a shame.
Graphic Credit: cdohnio