The Cost of Copy Editors

November 2, 2009

by Dan Ward

It’s not enough to say that the Internet and social media are killing newspapers.  Newspapers are also killing themselves by neglecting the quality of their product.

When copy editors are shown the door in increasing numbers, how can any newspaper expect to publish a quality product … a product that not only contains accurate and useful information, but is also free of glaring errors and typos that affect the readers’ experience?

Not to bash the Orlando Sentinel, but since it’s my hometown paper it’s the most convenient example.  The Oct. 29 “Sports Daily” section contained a number of errors:

  •  From an article on the Orlando Magic:  “Fans hated to see Lee traded after his promising rookie season, but Carter, an eight-time all-star authored a solid, if not spectacular, in his homecoming at Lee’s old shooting-guard position.”  Huh?
  • A Mike Bianchi column stated that Rashard Lewis had been suspended for the “first10 games.”  Might be a space-bar mishap there.
  • The next paragraph in that column ended without a period.
  • The same column asks us to “just as” instead of “just ask” the team’s biggest fan.
  • An AP story about the tragic murder of a UConn football player was so strong that the Sentinel chose to run two differently edited versions of it, on the same page, under different headlines.


Mistakes are always going to happen, and not every typo will be caught.  But when newspapers cut their editing staff to the point that quality suffers, their demise can no longer be blamed solely on the Internet.  The cost is evident in the latest Editor & Publisher report on circulation, which shows yet more double-digit declines.  Quality always matters, no matter the product.

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