Burned and out

I have a confession: I’m a political junkie. Admitting you have a problem, they say, is the first stage of the cure.

My job means I soak in politics, particularly during an election year. A coworker recently asked me about Newt Gingrich and I found myself launching on a tirade about his personal life over the last 20 years. The amount of detail frightened me.

It’s not a GOP-hater thing. It’s not a liberal/conservative thing. I just have more political minutia in my head than most people would consider healthy. And that’s got to stop.

I need to get more strict about tuning out of the news over the weekend and before and after work hours. I haven’t watched the GOP debates, so that’s a start. I didn’t watch the State of the Union. I usually do. And I need to rededicate myself to other, more productive, pursuits than reading Talking Points Memo.

Maybe I’ll take up running.

Playing with Soundslides

I put together this audio slideshow during a recent seminar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. I recorded all of the audio and captured all of the images on my iPhone.

I whittled down about 180 photographs and 30-plus minutes of audio into the 2:37 presentation using Soundslides. Hope you enjoy it.

Watch your butt

I firmly sit in the camp that holds that the baggy-pants-mean-the-end-of-civilization meme ranks up there with the Ozzy-bites-off-bat’s-heads meme: It’s prima facie ridiculous. While Ozzy may have bitten the head off a bat, I’ve read it was a misunderstanding, or somesuch. While really baggy pants may lower the wearer’s IQ in my mind, I count it as free expression. After all, no laws bar people from dressing like clowns.

Given those views, a chuckle rumbled through my belly to see the issue (baggy pants, not Ozzy) on the front page of today’s Detroit Free Press, let alone as the centerpiece.

Then I read the lede:

Flint residents now have to watch their butts because Police Chief David Dicks is on the lookout.

Um, watch your butts ’cause Dicks is coming? Cute. Maybe a copy editor should have told them. Maybe it was intentional. If it’s the former, they’re fools for not realizing how awful and suggestive the lede is. If it’s the latter, I’d call it a lame attempt at trying to be hip with the lingo, as the kids might say. Either way, on reading that, I would have groaned and had the reporter change it.

And to think that yesterday I spurred a minor controversy in our Features department by flagging a variation of the phrase “get it up” in a story. The head of our department nixed it, replacing it with a parenthetical euphemism. Here’s the original, with apologies to Sue (I really liked the original quote).

(Author Jim) Harrison is predictably blunt. “I had a professor from U-M ask me why (Thomas) McGuane and Richard Ford and I all went to Michigan State,” he says. “I said it was easier, you had more time to read literature and write. And also, I told him, ‘You guys haven’t gotten it up since Arthur Miller in the ’40s, so just ease up, you know?’ ” He laughs.

Outsourcing copy editors

Business Week has a feature up now on MIndworks Global Media, the company outside of New Delhi doing copy editing for the Orange County Register and Miami Herald. The headline: Company officials say they can do the job for 35-40 percent cheaper than I can.


(Thanks to Romenesko for the link.)

Wait, maybe copy editors aren’t dead

Chris Wienandt, president of the American Copy Editors Society, rebuts “In a Changing World of News, an Elegy for Copy Editors,” by Lawrence Downes, which I wrote about here. Downes’ piece appeared in The New York Times.

Late update: Maybe copy editors are dying after all — at least in Orange County.

Economic fright

I’m in the middle of Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston, and it’s as gripping and scary as a horror novel. Call it economic-horror nonfiction.

Johnston goes into a lot of detail about the commodification of labor, and how that trend works through a kind of outsourcing osmosis. To break it down to Duplos: Labor, including that done in front of a computer screen, will naturally move from high-cost countries (e.g., the U.S.) to low-cost countries like China and India. That process amounts to a third Industrial Revolution.

Here’s a scary passage:

“The first two jobs revolutions had in common one trait — people of average or even below-average intelligence could do many of the jobs with no more than a high school education. Will that be true in the digital, high tech third wave? And if it is not, what will be the consequences of living in a society where the brightest and hardest working are rewarded and almost everyone else is reduced to servant-level jobs and wages?”

Ponder that.

I generally consider myself a smart guy. I thought of copy editing as a safe career choice for a long while. Specialized knowledge of an area is critical to what I do. But then, a lot of what I do at work involves Googling this fact or that fact. As much as I hate to admit, that could be done from Bangalore. Is there value in a copy editor living and working where the copy originates? I’d like to think so.

But then, a friend caught up in the recent McClatchy layoffs tells me her job is going to India. She’s a page designer, but if a media company can outsource design positions, copy editing isn’t far behind.

I don’t want to be “reduced to servant-level jobs and wages,” but what happens when what I do evaporates?

Copy editors are dead!

Long live the copy editors!

In The New York Times, a elegy for my profession.

“… In that world of the perpetual present tense — post it now, fix it later, update constantly — old-time, persnickety editing may be a luxury in which only a few large news operations will indulge. It will be an artisanal product, like monastery honey and wooden yachts.”