Comical effect

A metaphor or simile has to walk a fine line. One false step, and it can fall over the edge. This line from a restaurant critic was on the right track until it confused the comic strip “Family Circus” with the magazine Family Circle.

“Circle” and “circus” do sound similar and have common origins. Plus, “Family Circus” is typically told in a circular format. It’s an easy mistake to make. But once in print, the error stands out.



  • The liberal blog Talking Points Memo shows how The New York Post edits Associated Press copy.
  • CNN commentator Lou Dobbs doesn’t like how newspapers use the term “undocumented immigrants” rather than “illegal aliens.”
  • Chip Scanlan of the Poynter Institute has merged his blog and columns about writing β€” with a vow to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The 40-Year-Old Intern

The move to online media was the big issue at the recent conference of the American Copy Editors Society, with an entire track of workshops dedicated to the topic. (Read all about it here.) As ACES leader Chris Wienandt pointed out in the conference’s program, the major concern 10 years ago was the switch to pagination β€” if only that could be our big problem now.

One of the ACES sessions brought editing professors into the same room with editors at news Web sites. Some of these Web editors were former newspaper copy editors; one was a former TV reporter. At least one was Web-only his entire career.

The lively discussion, moderated by Deborah Gump of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, touched on issues such as editing of wire copy (it’s not done much for the Web) and teaching software (it’s not all about Dreamweaver). Listening to this give and take, which at times was contentious but always courteous, I was struck that what we professors needed was some old-fashioned newsroom training. I’ve been out of newspapers for only two years, but I feel the need to return and learn more.

For 12 years, the American Society of Newspaper Editors ran a program that sent educators for a summer in the newsroom (usually print, but some online). There, they could brush up on their skills and learn some new ones to take back to the classroom. Unfortunately, the program ended in 2006, just when it seemed that we needed it the most.

Without ASNE to turn to, I am going to be my own agent. I want to work as a copy editor at a news Web site, continuous news desk or similar operation in the summer of 2008. (I’ve already got several projects lined up for this summer.) Like any intern, I will work late and work cheap. Just let me learn so I can better teach my students how to prepare for the changes ahead.

You can find my contact information here. References available upon request.

UPDATE: Poynter offers a good recap of the ACES conference.

Wiki kudos

As mentioned here, many of us on the editing side are wary of Wikipedia. Those concerns about accuracy stand.

It wouldn’t be fair of us, however, to ignore this article in The New York Times that discusses how Wikipedia is getting credit for the way its contributors have reported on the Virginia Tech shootings.

One of those contributors describes herself as β€œan obsessive copy editor and spellchecker.” Wikipedia could use more like her.


I am sad to report that Atlanta Journal-Constitution books editor Teresa Weaver is no longer in that role because of a newsroom restructing. (Read the reaction to the news here.) She’s a good editor who deserves better.

Many years ago, Teresa and I were on the copy desk together at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. Last year, I wrote a review of a Hal Crowther anthology for the AJC that Teresa edited.

Other news from the AJC here.

UPDATE: University presses and librarians are urged to act to save book reviews in newspapers.