Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sins that slide past the copy desk unobserved

I used to work at a copy desk. At Variety, where I worked for a time, it was a huge table around which all the copy editors sat.

Articles were passed around the table, giving everyone a chance to note anything wrong and fix it. That was our job. Kinda fun if you like to play with words. (And I do.) But the greatest sin a copy editor can make is allowing a mistake to get past her -- and that often means past all the copywriters. Tch. Not good.

Which brings me to a sentence I saw this morning on AP's page at the New York Times. Here it is:
Hungarian Jewish leaders say they have found 103 Torah scrolls taken from Hungary during the Holocaust in a Russian library.
Ahem. The Holocaust didn't happen in a Russian library. Not now, not ever. It's simple to fix a flaw like this. Here's one way they could have handled it. 
In a Russian library, Hungarian Jewish leaders found 103 Torah scrolls taken from Hungary during the Holocaust.
See how easy that was? I swear, copy desks have fallen on hard times. I guess since no one reads anymore, simple copy fixes are out of their reach. Pity.