The Necessity of Editing

This is one of my favorite newsroom jokes:

An editor and a reporter are in a plane that crashes in a vast desert. They are the only survivors. When it becomes apparent that no one is coming to their rescue, the two men begin walking. Many hours later, they resort to crawling. Just as they are about to abandon hope, they spot an oasis. With their last bit of strength, they pull themselves to a cool, crystalline pool of water. The reporter dips his head and gulps madly, stopping only when he becomes aware of an odd splashing sound. Craning his head to the right, he is horrified to spot the editor, a short distance away, urinating in the water.

“What are you doing?” the reporter cries.

Replies the editor with confidence: “I’m making it better.”

A reporter/writer obviously wrote this joke. The truth is that writers and editors need each other, much the way rock singers and lead guitarists do. In both cases, however, the alliances can be uneasy. (See Jagger/Richards) Writers frequently carp about editors who alter their copy in the interest of “making it better,” while quietly acknowledging editors who have saved them from embarrassing mistakes –or worse. 

The larger truth is that clean copy doesn’t just happen. It is the result of a process that involves numerous revisions and, often, the efforts of multiple contributors.



Posted in Editorial on 03/02/2012 07:35 pm

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