An ironclad rule of media blogging: Write a post about cable news, get tendentious and nasty comments.

Write a post about copy editing, get sharp and probing comments.

Have a look at some of the feedback from a post in which the Erik Wemple Blog attempted to dismiss some of the hysteria over copy-editing at the Washington Post. Smart:


2:46 PM EDT

The problem here is not with reporters focusing on the big stuff and missing the little stuff. It is the reporter’s job to report, not to copy edit. Unfortunately, the Washington Post has eviscerated its copy editing staff, and the chickens are coming home to roost. Even the printed Post looks like a student newspaper many days. However you rationalize it to help you sleep at night, publishing articles that are full of typos, poor grammar, and sloppy mistakes is unprofessional. If you are okay with that, then man up and own it. Don’t try to rationalize it away and blame dissatisfaction on the reader who doesn’t appreciate a poor product. That “blame the customer” attitude is the final nail in the coffin of many formerly thriving businesses.

Smart and biting:


2:36 PM EDT

This article hits me in not one, but two sore spots. First, it’s a defense of poor copy editing at a national newspaper (“They’re so obsessed with getting the big things right that sometimes the little things don’t get the proper attention.”) when I happen to firmly believe that newspapers are standard-bearers for language. Second, once again, somebody at the Post is writing about somebody at the Post writing about something in the Post. Any questions as to why this paper is in a death spiral?

Smart and caring:


1:24 PM EDT

There is no excuse for sloppy copy editing. As a newspaper, you should be the standard bearer in ensuring the least amount of errors in grammar and spelling. I am very disappointed anytime I read a post with errors and the Post loses some of its credibility with me (and I suspect others) when it happens. Stop making excuses and hold everyone accountable. Believe it or not, there are people who still care.

The battle for copy integrity at The Post and across the news industry will go on. My main point is that it’ll have to go on without boosting the copy-editing budget at a place like The Post or the New York Times, which is now going through a series of newsroom buyouts.

To maintain/regain their place as stewards of the written language, newspapers are going to have to find other ways to shore up quality control. An obvious first step is to require that reporters master their stylebooks or else. Once an error gets in a story, after all, it requires an act of assertion somewhere down the line to excise it.

A word to all those, including the “former staffer” who lashed out at current Washington Post copy standards: Things were never quite as hygienic as you remember them. Believe it or not, editions of The Washington Post from its fully staffed glory days carried typos and grammatical errors as well. It’s our human inclination to romanticize those good old days and trash the present.