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View Diary: NY Times mea culpa (328 comments)

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  •  Something more (none)
    I have the impression that the newspapers cut back on their copy-editing and fact-checking staff as a way to cut costs.  It is hard to believe that the kind of stuff that has come out of the Times in the past four or five years -- no go all the way back to the Whitewater fiasco -- would have passed the elementary fact-check test.  You pay cheap, you get cheap.
    •  Two different jobs (none)
      Fact checking and copy editing are two different jobs. Copy editors don't review content. In fact, I doubt many daily, or even weekly, newspapers have a specific fact-checking staff. That's more a magazine thing.

      As a rule, Reporters are expected to have good facts, or at least to acknowledge when they couldn't get them (hence the phrase "Mr Smith was unavailable for comment"). Editors are expected to watch for things that are fishy or incomplete. The reporter is expected to follow-up. A paper like the NY Times presumably has several layers of editors that a story needs to go through before publication.
      Most papers it's probably just one person and in some (and in most blogs) it's no one.

      •  Copy editors fact check (none)
        The job requirements vary from publication to publication, but copy editors often fact check. Check out the job postings at and you will see that many of them seek fact-checking skills.

        I believe that typically it would be primarily a news editor's job to worry about "balance," whether a reporter is being snowed by an Iraqi con man, etc. If the Iraqi con man exists and said what he the reporter reported, that is a checked fact; it would be up to the news editors to decide whether the reporter acted appropriately in relying on the guy.

        •  Thanks! (none)
          First off thanks for the link!! I'm looking for work.

          As an editor, and often a copy editor, I've always been taught that copy editing is a distinct task, centered around checking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Worrying about content gets in the way.

          I suppose there can be a more expansive definition, but from my experience, editing for style and content is a separate task from copy editing.

          •  I don't see (none)
            how a copy editor can check for spelling, punctuation, or grammar without taking content into account (and I mean reading for style and comprehension, not fact-checking) because those three things affect the way information is delivered. If any one of them is off, meanings can change.

            I work in academic publishing and we've run into this as a problem (freelancers making sure the acronyms are spelled out while they ignore the fact that sentences are not comprehensible).

            These days, tech editors are a complete luxury, unfortunately, so my $12 an hour job encompasses reading for meaning and checking the copyeditors. (!) I often fact-check too, because my name is on the masthead and I don't want us looking like idiots. ;-)

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