Hear, hear for editors

My goodness, people just don’t appreciate a good editor.

Or, at least, they don’t know they appreciate one.

Take Google for instance. Of the 287 million results that show up when I type in “Yahoo logo changing,” the first one — a sponsored post by none other than Yahoo — explains the company is revealing a different logo every day until the Sept. 5 unveiling of the actual new logo.

Google prioritized the answer for me and delivered it in 0.37 seconds. That’s the work of a good editor, even an algorithmic one.

I heard a story on National Public Radio today about a controversy surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. It seems a quote of King’s was chiseled into the Stone of Hope:

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

But King never said that nice 10-word sentence. He said:

“Yes, if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice, say I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

His 44-word quote is more eloquent, especially when delivered by King, one of the world’s greatest orators.

But it didn’t fit. The trunacated quote has been chiseled away from the memorial.

As a former journalist, I kind of agree with the sticklers. It’s not right to attribute a quote to someone if they didn’t say it. But as a former copy editor who wrote dozens of headlines on any newspaper shift, I completely disagree with the guy who obviously doesn’t appreciate editors — he told NPR, “I think they should put it back in there but do it right.”

There’s not room! You can’t put a 44-word quote in the space formerly occupied by a 10-word quote. Not on a hunk of granite. It’s like trying to get “loophole’ and “Obamacare” in a three-deck, one-column headline — very tricky business in 44-point type! Granite is like newsprint which, for you 20somethings, is like a 140-character Tweet — space is limited! If you tried to get the real quote into the truncated space, you’d have room for:

“Yes, if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum.”

It’s technically accurate, but still wrong. It says nothing. (Here’s another approach and a picture of the part of the memorial in question.)

That’s where a good editor comes in and sandblasts the inaccurate quote in favor of no quote at all. Now a good designer, she would have designed the memorial in such a way as to accommodate the whole quote. But that’s another blog post.

To dangerously paraphrase Blaise Pascal, this blog post is longer than usual because I did not have time to make it shorter.

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One response to “Hear, hear for editors

  1. I very regularly appreciate a good editor! Having grown up with a newspaper where the editor did no actual editing I’ve also developed a huge attitude of appreciation for editors that actually do their job.

    Also, I very much appreciated your Google analogy as someone who is the human part of the automated algorithm. While I know my fellow raters and I are not perfect we definitely work hard to make sure that the results you’re getting are accurate based on your intent :).

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