Photo: Denver Post copy editor goodbye cake spells journalism changes

The photo above -- featuring a cake served at a goodbye party for copy editors leaving the paper -- shows that the folks still employed at the Denver Post haven't lost their sense of humor. However, they have lost their copy desk, in a change whose full impact can't be fully calculated yet.

Last month, we shared word that the Post planned to lay off two-thirds of its copy editors -- a number estimated by sources as sixteen. That guess turned out to be a bit high: Only eleven wound up exiting, with a severance package as a parting gift, because several staffers from other departments, including columnist Tina Griego, took the same deal. Additionally, three ex-copy editors took new gigs as a reporter, a production manager and a design-desk staffer, respectively, while nine others became assistant editors.

Last month, Post editor Greg Moore described the duties of this last group like so: "They may do some content editing, they'll write headlines, place stories on pages, and proof some pages to make sure our display headlines on covers and page one are as good as they've ever been. But they'll also be much more a part of the entire process: posting stories online, making sure we've got SEO-friendly headlines, things of that nature. They'll have a total involvement in the content-generating process, as opposed to coming in at the end of the day and doing the tail-end kinds of things that are part of the typical copy-editor role. They're going to be more fully immersed in the entire generation process for online and print."

These changes have naturally inspired naysayers to scour the Post for mistakes like the following, which reported about the Colorado Rockies' "downward sprial," as opposed to "downward spiral."

A Westworder also pointed out a gaffe last Wednesday on the cover of the Food section. A piece about a Boulder eatery called Riffs featured a caption that read, "Riffs owner John Platt creates a plate at the restaurant," but the accompanying photo showed something that looked like empty plates stacked on a table, with no Platt in sight. Turns out the image was a nondescript corner of a larger photo that can be seen in full online.

Even with a robustly staffed copy desk, the Post still made the occasional mistake, just as every news organization does no matter how much work is poured into getting it right the first time. But economic realities have made such stumbles more common, as we at Westword know from personal experience. We continue to employ veteran copy editor Jane Le, a linguistic marvel who's been on the job here for more than two decades. However, her main task is to copy edit the print edition -- meaning that every item we publish on a blog (including this one) goes live without copy editing. Le tries to look over published online pieces after the fact, but her workload is so heavy that we sometimes hear from readers about typos and the like (such as a recent headline that read "date rate" instead of "date rape") before she gets to them.

No, it's not an ideal situation. But it's a reality for us and, now, for the Denver Post. Welcome to our world.

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More from our Media archive: "Denver Post's Greg Moore on learning to live without a copy desk."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts