John McIntyre, who blogs on language and editing at the Baltimore Sun, marks his 21st anniversary there with a roundup of things he has learned about newspaper culture. The list will have print journalists intoning "Amen, brother," but readers should also find it amusing and maybe enlightening. Some highlights:
A reporter, seeing a copy editor’s deletion of an adjective or prepositional phrase, will react as if a chapter has been ripped from the Pentateuch.
The dumber the comic strip, the fiercer the loyalty.
To a reporter, a 50-inch story is, by definition, twice as good as a 25-inch story.
The reader who spots the error you [the editor] let into print after you caught 19 others will write to ask if anyone on the staff has been to college.
But one of them stopped me:
No reader cares as much as a thin belch about how hard you worked on the story or photo or headline.
The main point is clear: You don't get credit for effort, only for results. But what the heck is a "thin belch"? Google turns up enormous belches, appreciative belches, loud belches, even a few fat belches, but no thin belches. I have asked the author for enlightenment; check for an update in a day or two.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.