Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A reader's questions

A READER SENT ALONG these questions this morning:

Olly said... Hi Tom,

The other day I was sub-editing an article on hydropower in China. It was an awful mess and I pretty much rewrote the whole thing, ripping out massive chunks of text and replacing them with more relevant content (under the orders of me editor, of course). However, I generally followed the author's structure.

The reason I am writing about this here is that my editor has just asked me if want a credit as co-author (it is a piece for print). What do you think? In my opinion sub-editors should sit in the shadows. We are often "ghost writers" I find. Is there a hard and fast rule for this? Friends talk to me about the "copy-editors' code", which forbids subbers from taking bylines. Do you know about this?

I've faced that same scenario a few times, and I, too, prefer to edit in the shadows. I once did a massive edit on a too-long story. I edited the top 25 inches into a page 1 news story, then used the other 70 or so inches for an inside story. I wrote a lead on the second story and did massive editing to get all of that information into a 24-inch hole. The news editor asked if I wanted to put my name on the end as editor, and I said no. He laughed and asked if I was hiding out from the law.

No, just lurking in the shadows.

I don't know that there's a hard and fast rule. It seems to be each newspaper's preference. The local newspaper has started having its editors put their names on notes they've added to briefs. So far, I've resisted this, but I know that, at some point, I'll have to give in.

Thanks for the questions (sorry I didn't see them sooner). As always, do what you think is best. But don't tick off your bosses.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for answering my question. After reading your advice about not ticking off my bosses, I explained that while I was happy that my work on the piece had been recognized, I felt that adding my name to it would perhaps diminish the value of the article in the eyes of our readers as I'm neither a journalist nor a clean energy expert. (The publication is a business journal and not a consumer title.)