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Get The Ink Out:

If you have something to say, be loud and proud

March 11, 2010|By Jamie Rowe

As a journalist, I’m used to readers telling me what’s what when it comes to something — anything — in the paper. It’s true what they say: Everyone’s a critic.

And I welcome the criticism. It enables me to grow and learn from my mistakes.

This week City Editor Imran Vittachi handed me a letter from a reader, saying he believed it was for the copy desk.

Inside the envelope was not the winner for an Academy Award, but a tear sheet of the Feb. 13 Society page with a misspelling circled (“underwiting” is the new craze of being not very smart or funny at social gatherings and certainly not “underwriting” missing an R) and a woman’s name circled in a caption and the column — spelled two different ways. Oops.

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I remember reading this column, and I can’t say that I made a conscious effort to miss those things; but again, the copy desk has five newspapers it edits each week. That’s newspapers as in titles, not issues. We read at least two full newspapers a day, and most of the time it’s closer to three or four.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I actually like all the reading and editing I do, but as this nice reader has illustrated with their question at the top of the tear sheet, “Where are your copyreaders?!!??”

We could use the help, dear reader. Sadly, I cannot offer you a job, as you didn’t put a return address on the envelope. How can I tap into your awesome reservoir of English knowledge if I don’t know who you are?

This phenomenon of unsigned criticism is nothing new. At Cal State Long Beach the English department loved to pick apart the student paper.

At my first reporting gig, in Bishop, someone explained we’d gotten their/there/they’re mixed up. My editor told me next time to offer that person a job. I took the advice to heart. Anyone who shows me a thing or two about editing gets the offer because someone that meticulous deserves a chance to be on the copy desk.

This issue of criticizing without naming yourself comes up often with our online comments and editorials, so maybe I should clear up some things.

Editorials are meant to be unsigned. They are typically written by an editorial board. Members can include the editor-in-chief, the opinion editor, the publisher and maybe an opinion writer.

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