Testy Copy Editors

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 Post subject: Herding cats
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:11 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:47 pm
Posts: 4655
Location: New York City
1. I feel sorry for the copy editors. [I've known some who had to edit Anthony Lewis.] 2. If only the readers had a choice between something written by Krugman or Dowd, and something written by a cat.

A Mind of Their Own, and the Freedom to Speak It

Readers ask me about this on a fairly regular basis: How much freedom do The Times’s star columnists have? Are they edited or directed at all? Given their stature, would anyone dare?
To explore the issue, I interviewed Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, and I surveyed the Op-Ed columnists, including Gail Collins, who was the previous editorial page editor. The response was unanimous: Columnists have almost inviolable free rein on subject matter. But that “almost” is important.

One recent exception was Mr. Rosenthal’s directive that columnists not all write about the Newtown school massacre within a day or two of one another.

Another constraint is still more rare: deciding against publishing a column that has been written. Mr. Rosenthal said he had done it only once.
These writers usually send their columns directly to copy editors, who may raise questions of word choice, clarity and the logic of their arguments. And many of the columnists praise the ability and judgment of those copy editors.
But, as the Krugman story suggests, trying to direct The Times’s columnists can be an exercise in humility. Mr. Rosenthal offered an analogy: “I can tell my cat to sit, and sometime within the next six months the cat will sit, and I can take credit for it.”

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