Copy editors (AKA sub-editors) will sift through stories to ensure clarity, will check spellings to the best of their ability, and do their best to make headlines enticing. That’s our brief, although we do sometimes fall short. Even so, it’s good that some people recognise the important role that copy editors play in journalism, whether it be online or in print. Very few readers actually know what we do.
Copy editors are the unsung heroes of newsrooms. Unknown to the public, and often underappreciated by their colleagues, they’re the last line of defense against a correction or, worse, a libel suit.
They’re skeptics who revel in the arcane. They know the difference between median and mean, and can speak knowledgeably about topics from Methuselah to the Milky Way. They write headlines, design some pages, check facts and make sure assertions are supported. They spend entire careers working horrible night-shift hours.
This might sound like self-congratulatory waffle, but subs are losing jobs as quickly as reporters as newspapers seek to cut costs on production while maintaining a certain level of content. It’s also true that I’m an unemployed copy editor (although can you really be an “unemployed [insert job]”?) but that was by choice, even if I do miss the work, unsociable hours and all.
Meanwhile, my thesis is clipping along nicely and I have surpassed the 20,000 words needed for submission. Of course, now comes the editing and rewriting; the subbing, if you will.