Union Editors Show Their Grit in the Face of At-Risk Print Jobs

Do you need copy editing? Yes you do!

Case in Point

The Toronto Star – one of Canada's largest newspapers – recently announced plans for a major restructuring that would put over 160 union print jobs at risk. Publisher John Cruickshank's released a memo discussing plans to outsource 100 union editing jobs, and 60 union prepress jobs – most likely to contractors overseas.

The Star's union is predictably shocked and upset, as are its editors. The Torontoist received a copy of Cruickshank's memo from an anonymous source claiming to represent a Star editor. The memo had been altered to demonstrate just how badly the newspaper needs its local, invested editorial staff.

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In the memo, Cruickshank's refers to the at-risk jobs as “non-core functions,” a position that is increasingly up for debate in the printing world. After all, print is being trumped by online news sources that – let's face it – do not, by and large, adhere to the editing standards traditionally upheld by the Fourth Estate.

To Edit, or Not to Edit?

Some readers argue that they're interested in information, and that small copy errors do not get in the way of absorbing details. And indeed, ubiquity of information has reduced many of us to scanners – we pick out the detail we want and ignore the rest, so who needs perfect copy, right?

On the flipside of the argument, however, there are those of us who still cling to the bygone whimsy that words actually have the power to mean something, and that it's possible for one ill-turned phrase or wrongly conjugated clause to change the entire nature of what's being said. We build language to allow us to express our thoughts as perfectly as possible, but if we don't strive for this ideal, we risk descending into error, misunderstanding, and ignorance.

Implications for Commercial Printing

Perhaps surprisingly, in commercial printing, we are less at risk of forgetting the value of editing than in journalism. The incongruity of a less integrity-invested media being more rigorous in its executions occurs because the entire success of a print campaign can center around three words. As such, it's crucial to get those words right.

Which is not to say that mistakes don't happen.

Today, Digital Nirvana offers a very thoughtful take on the importance of copy editing, particularly for commercial printers making the foray into broader marketing services.

Editing Philosophy

Ultimately, editing is not unlike the work of translation. It takes into account the structure and history of language, writing, and thought, in order to create a coherent and accurately interpreted window into life. Just as one improperly translated word can change the entire meaning of a document, one overlooked or poorly edited word can have major implications on the meaning of printed message.

Imagine sending an invitation with the wrong date or time on it. Or using the word “cut” instead of “cute,” “sail” instead of “sale,” or “affect” instead of “effect.”

These kind of mistakes – and much worse! – happen all the time without the sharp eye of a professional editor. And moreover, without the sharp eyes of multiple editors. The key to perfect copy is to involve a team of invested people in the project. If you don't have people who care, and you don't have multiple eyes on the job, the best you can hope for is that readers don't care, either, and that you don't have to many of them coming around, pointing out mistakes.

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