Is It The End for Copy Editing?

If you read us this far, it’s obvious that one of the truths of the digital age (and the current age, at large) is that not all news outlets were created equal.

Some giant corporations like to invest in media publications and therefore they have the resources to create information giants: they can spend a lot of money to hire personnel or buy state of the art technology to help build the newest, best possible news portals. Mostly, though, these corporations treat their magazines, websites or newspapers like they would a factory. If it doesn’t generate a profit, it’s not worth having it.

While other (usually smaller) outlets remain fiercely independent, and have not been bought out by millionaires, the issue remains: it’s a delicate balance between needing to be relevant while selling copies and having an audience always engage, and being professionally pure.

What happens more and more is that newspapers worldwide are taking away their perceived dead branches, and by doing so they’re really creating a problematic situation: one of the most dramatic instances comes from none other than The New York Times, the very same paper that made a name for itself also thanks to the accuracy of its contents. The news there is that the publishers at the newspaper have decided to make it without its legendary copy desk, which is the department in the newsroom that’s in charge for finding grammar mistakes and syntax flaws in its pieces. The management at the NYT thinks the same tasks can be done by specific software. Most other publishing houses seem to think along the same lines: Conde Nast laid off some of the copy editing staff in all its publications (and shut down completely operations at Teen Vogue) at the end of 2017. There are more and more examples: Time, The Huffington Post, Mic.com all laid off personnel in that field.

It’s more convenient to rely on a computer program, apparently: it certainly costs less than hiring a number of people paid to find out errors and inaccuracies, but is this the way to go? The human touch a professional journalist can bring to a page they’re editing, including the cultural references or the wit they only can contribute… are they really being exchanged with a cheaper piece of software? It seems like a revolution, and not one of the good kinds, that is ongoing. And unstoppable.

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