Editing for grammar, not fact

8 Feb

Facts are the key element of news.

Without facts, newspapers and blogs would just be full of editorials. It seems anybody could start a legitimate news source because you can’t argue with what someone thinks. News websites wouldn’t bother to list the last time an article was updated to keep readers aware of a situation. Unless the reporter had changed his or her mind, of course.

Then, one must ask, who is responsible for making sure the facts are accurate? And what about articles that get spit out and posted online before going through the traditional editing process of the old days? Who should be held accountable for facts there? Isn’t it a joint effort between the the writer, the editor and all the little minions who run around making sure everything runs smoothly at a publication?

Not necessarily so, say some. The purpose of a copy editor is to edit for a reader’s understanding of an article. Copy editors are looking out for grade-school level mistakes, along with more complex grammar errors which could slip by an untrained reader’s eye.  They’re not in the business of fact checking, though they need to catch inconsistencies in a story and call it to the reporter’s attention.

While the facts not being correct won’t belittle copy editors (after all, their names aren’t part of stories’ bylines), sometimes copy editors overstep their boundaries. Sure, Jessica Palombo might have had a typo where she slipped an “s” onto “he.” We’ve all done it. But that wasn’t in the copy editor’s authority to correct for publication. A quick phone call to the writer could have quickly solved this dilemma. Also, that phone call could have quickly avoided any protests that the paper was against representing homosexual relationships, which surely could have impacted its circulation numbers – a paper’s worst nightmare in this day and age of declining print organizations.

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