Thursday, December 13, 2007

Support your local copydesk

Here's another of those arguments against outsourcing and in favor of cultivating a strong on-site copydesk. Granted, in this case, the local desk didn't come through, but there's always the chance that, next time the distant experts bollix a piece of regional trivia, it will:

It all led to a rollicking, but failed, 2000 presidential bid in which McCain revealed his full self to an unsuspecting electorate: funny, engaging and relentlessly honest. Until he wasn't -- when he tried to finesse whether the Confederate Stars and Bars should fly over the S.C. State House. He pleased no one, including himself.

This is almost unchanged from the version posted three weeks ago at the McClatchy Washburo Web site, so the error in question is one that wasn't corrected, rather than one inserted by the desk (hey, it happens). But it's the sort that desks take pride -- or at least used to take pride -- in catching. The flag that waved o'er the land of the unreconstructed yahoos and Maurice's Piggie Park was the official pickup truck flag of the Confederacy -- the battle flag with the Andrew cross, not the "Stars and Bars."

That's the sort of thing that's called "detail" in stories we think are important and "trivia" in stories we discount. It's worth having editors around who pay attention to details (or trivia), because -- whether it's in matters of culture or of social science -- reporters have a distressing tendency to grab for the available or "sounds like" concept, rather than the one that says what they mean. Centralized or long-distance editing doesn't cure that. Strong local editing might.

4 Comments:

Blogger Strayhorn said...

Vexillology is one of those dying sciences, I'm afraid.

On a brighter note, I complimented a writer the other day for knowing that colors are presented and retired. Positive reinforcement and all that.

"Hoorah for the Bonnie Blue . . . "

2:42 PM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Funny how one little wrong detail makes readers cast a jaundiced eye over the whole story, isn't it? Uproarious.

7:15 PM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger Denise said...

On another bright note, Maurice's BBQ is very tasty, and his gift shops are hilarious, even to my admitted-redneck husband.

1:02 PM, December 14, 2007  
Blogger Andria said...

Yet another bright note:
I'm 99 percent certain that story did not go through The Charlotte Observer's copy desk.
The process is the problem, causing a bad outcome.
Fixable. Soon.

9:21 PM, December 14, 2007  

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