Obit for a copy desk

The Winston-Salem Journal was one of several fine newspapers in North Carolina. A friend who used to work there sent me a link to Tommy Tomlinson’s blog post that includes a video about the management of that newspaper deciding to kill its in-house copy desk. The video is moving and sad, the story unbelievable. For now, apparently, the pared-down copy desk has a sort of reprieve. Outsourcing still looms.

Two things once restrained media companies’ legendary greed: the competition, which forced investments and standards; and the fact that they made so much money they could afford to have professional standards, if not pride. They still make money, just not bucketfuls, but, with the collapse of other print organs, they can gut newspapering’s evolved support network almost without shame. I loved newspapers before I worked in them and cannot help but see these as dark days for our republic.

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9 Comments

Filed under editing, journalism

9 responses to “Obit for a copy desk

  1. I just became friends with some old newspapermen—they actually call themselves the Aging Newspapermen’s Association, with the Young Women’s Auxiliary (of which I am now a part). Someone gave a reading during the Christmas luncheon about the rivalry between the three Baltimore newspapers. Now there’s barely the one.

    When do we put our brakes on, screech to a halt, and say, “WHOA! We cannot live any longer without a newspaper”? We need some investigative journalists in our town. Are the bloggers regurgitating ABC (already-been-chewed) news really the preferred news?

    Yeah, journalism and TV news need some serious overhauls. But they need a renaissance. I wonder, though: are there enough of us not-yet-old people interested in showing how necessary, how important it is to take our crossword puzzles in the den with coffee, read the newspaper cover to cover, cut out our Sunday coupons?

    I am not cut out for solutions. But tell me what to do to bring our papers back, and I’ll be a fighter.

  2. theexile

    At my recent and very short stint at a small small small newspaper, from what I could tell, all that seemed to matter was content filling pages.

    No one seemed interested in telling stories or had a sense of local history. I was the oldest on the editorial staff. The other writers didn’t seem to have ambitions to be writers, to tell stories.

    I wrote a brief feature on a man who experienced the Pearl Harbor attack as a child– his father was an Army Sergeant — and I had to explain to my editor that a Hudson was an automobile.

    Maybe one problem is that writers coming out of j-schools today don’t really have ambitions to be be writers or reporters or storytellers.

    And there is no sense of competition. The chief competition for this paper is a monthly “newspaper” that people get free because it’s essentially an advertising dump.

  3. Katherine Ziff

    My goodness what a sad day for Winston-Salem my home town. My family took both the morning paper, the Journal, and the Twin City Sentinel in the evening. Still does take the Journal and has for let’s see a half century.

  4. Oh, how Mom loved Krispy Kreme. She’d get them hot off the conveyor belt at the franchise near her home in Winter Park. I’d forgotten they’re a southern item, too.