The Gazette’s Andrew Phillips asks on his blog about whether errors — factual, style, grammatical, spelling — are more prevalent in the paper now than they used to be. He points to a blog post at The Guardian, which argues that spelling particularly was much worse back in the days before spellcheck and desktop publishing.
I can’t really offer an opinion on whether the quality has gone up or down over the long term, since (a) I’m only in my 20s and (b) I work as a copy editor and my opinion is necessarily biased.
But as a copy editor, I’ll note that, unfortunately, proofreading is the least important of our functions. Pages must be laid out, headlines, decks, cutlines and other “display type” must be written, and photos must be inserted. But if the page is mostly wire copy (which has been thoroughly edited by the wire service), sometimes it might get typeset (at least for the first edition) without getting properly proofread. An editor might ask another to just look at headlines and large type because there’s no time for a full readthrough (this is especially true in sports, where a game will finish at 10pm, the article has to be written by 10:20pm and the page must be typeset by 10:40pm, a seemingly impossible task that’s done on a near-daily basis).
With the recent round of buyouts cutting staff in every section, one of the copy editing positions eliminated was specifically responsible for checking pages for obvious mistakes before they were typeset. Now that job falls on the editor who laid out the page, or the managing night editor. And it works, most of the time.
Was that a mistake? Should a dedicated proofreader be hired? Should there be more copy editors to double-check each other’s work? And if so, what positions should be cut to make room in the budget for new staff?
Or, put another way, would you be willing to pay a dollar or two more a month for your subscription if it meant half the number of typos you see now?