This column by the editorial page editor of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., is making noise on the Web, being picked up by The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post, among others. The headline (“Why I see John Edwards as a big phony”) is certainly effective at grabbing attention, and the writer, Brad Warthen, recounts three “phony” moments from the presidential candidate.
What many readers may overlook in the column is the unusual presence of a copy editor. About two-thirds of the way into the piece, Warthen recounts a meeting of the State’s editorial board with Howard Dean, who (like Edwards) ran for president in 2004. (Such meetings are typical as candidates fish for endorsements.) A copy editor in question described as “a real Dean fan” sat in on the meeting and called Dean a “nice man” as the candidate shook hands with employees of various stature as he left the newspaper building.
I’ve never heard of copy editors being invited to such meetings. It’s never happened at papers where I’ve worked. Is it a good idea?
On the one hand, it’s heartening to see copy editors included in this part of a newspaper’s operations. It’s probably a good idea if the copy editor works on the editorial and op-ed pages. On the other hand, it’s unnerving to see such unabashed fandom from a journalist. It opens the door to accusations of bias and favoritism, particularly if the copy editor is working on the news side.
Here is a previous post on the separation of news and editorial departments.
UPDATE: Warthen responds and clarifies in a comment to this post. He also responds at his blog.