Copy Editors Come Together

By Fitzgerald, Mark | Editor & Publisher, August 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Copy Editors Come Together


Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher


Start their own association which will hold its first conference in October

IN NEWSROOMS TODAY, there's a club for everyone. Graphic artists have the Society of Newspaper Design. The managing editor can belong to Associated Press Managing Editors Association. The best food day section editor can join the Association of Food Journalists.

Investigative reporters, African Americans, science writers, lesbians and gay men, football writers, religion writers, business editors, ombudsmen -- all have formal associations.

Dog writers have their own association -- Dog Writers Association of America -- and even their own Web site: www.prodogs.com/dwaa.

Everybody has an association, that is, except the thousands of men and women whose work is absolutely vital to publishing the Daily Miracle: Copy editors.

That is all about to change, however. After decades of being mad as hell, copy editors have decided they are not going to take it any more.

"Copy editors can no longer sit back and quack among themselves- we've got to do something," said Dorothy Wilson, managing editor of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.

"Can you think of any group of journalists at any newspaper who are more disrespected than copy editors?" said Kevin Catalano, a copy editor at the Kansas City Star. "The 'Mount Everest of discontent' is true and I think there are a lot of reasons for it," Catalano added, referring to an American Society of Newspaper Editors study that documented the anger among copy editors.

Catalano, Wilson and more than a dozen other copy editors and newsroom leaders from across the country are organizing the first association dedicated to those who labor on the rim: the American Copy Editors Society, or ACES.

ACES is holding its first conference and workshop Oct. 23-25 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is perhaps a good measure of the discontent among copy editors that some preliminary regional copy editor conferences organized by editors in the Southeast have had no trouble at all attracting these most reclusive newsroom employees.

"Enough people have seen the writing on the wall that it is not a question of will there be a copy editors association -- it's a question of when there will be one," the Sun Herald's Wilson said.

Discontent among copy editors, of course, is an old story. Indeed, it's almost part of the job, the Star's Catalano notes.

"Copy editors by their very nature are always looking for problems." he said. "You [copy editor] are a complainer, you're going to find something wrong."

On the other hand, however, much has conspired to keep copy editors' complaints muffled.

"The best copy editors by their nature are more introverted than reporters," Catalano said. "They're not joiners .... They work hours when the reporters and [senior] editors are gone. …

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