An error in the Washington Post, a recognition for editors


Despite being from Generation “Y do I have to get a job and pay rent?” and working with the Internet every day, the print paper is something I will read until the economy wrests the medium away from me. Until that day, I will enjoy the smorgasbord style of the paper, which forces me to read articles I surely wouldn’t have honed in on from the Web.

Some mistakes are harder to excuse than others. From Wikipedia.

Some mistakes are harder to excuse than others. From Wikipedia.

Still, the many rounds of copy editor layoffs have taken their toll on the print product. Most readers have now accepted finding little typos at this point; that is a lost battle. There just aren’t enough troops. There are other problems, too, like that of Sunday’s Metro section. The article, “More Va. felons get rights restored,” supposedly jumped from the front page to page C6.

I checked with my friend C6. He didn’t know the whereabouts of the remainder of the story. Though he had his hands full with stories about Metro’s Roadeo bus division competition and another Arlington Cemetery, he kindly pointed me to C4. Perhaps the page number on the text referring to the jump was wrong.

On C4 was this article: “McDonnell on fast pace restoring felons’ rights.” This was actually the same article as the one on the front page, but instead of being a jump, it was the entirety of the same story. The story on the front page simply shouldn’t have been there. It was scrapped from the page plan at some point, but unfortunately left stranded on the front.

Readers might wonder what they are paying for when they see mistakes like these. But this is not a critique of the Post, which at $20 a month, is still a good value considering it is like getting a local edition of Time magazine every day at your doorstop (We started getting Time for free. Not a lot of new ideas in there). Instead, let’s all recognize that copy editing is an insanely difficult job, especially during these times of “do more with less.”

I made my share of mistakes working on the night copy desk; once I forgot to place a comic on the page, a comic that thousands of people read in the same place every day. I have misspelled people’s names, gotten scores wrong. Whipping around copy and layouts on deadline is as close to performing surgery as a journalist can get. And if you make a mistake, it’s too late, man. That paper is going out. No “take backs” like the Web offers.

My mild annoyance on a wrong jump page instead turns to respect, for the people who put one of America’s last great newspapers out everyday. It is thankless work; they are doing a good job only if you DON’T notice them. So even though I noticed you today, copy editors of the world, I appreciate everything that goes into “another daily miracle.” Please, keep up the good work.

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One Response to An error in the Washington Post, a recognition for editors

  1. carsonata says:

    This is so sad but true. Newspapers are driving their few remaining reporters too hard and too long, and then forcing them to edit their own stories. Typos in headlines are painful; layout glitches leave readers shaking their heads, but we still keep buying, waiting patiently for the precious paper to hit the doorstep in the morning. Now as the giants begin to stagger — Boston Globe, Washington Post, etc. — we must pay our respects to the medium that allowed us all to take the truth for granted.

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