Tom Shales: My Life With All Those Damn Editors

From a 2013 About Editing and Writing post by former Washington Post television critic Tom Shales:

Something I used to hear about me and the Washington Post, where I spent roughly 39 varyingly rewarding years, most of those as TV critic, was that my pristine copy veritably flew out of my typewriter (later the PC) and directly into the newspaper with nary so much as a glance from an editor. That is not at all true. Some pieces were edited lightly and some were mutilated but all passed before the eyes of several editors.

I regularly denounced editors as a species, insulting them with such disparagements as, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t even teach, edit.”  Editors, I liked to say, were all failed writers, and bitter about it, but that kind of logic produces such similarly flawed thoughts as critics are all failed performers or failed somethings. Having now reached an age of reason, that little lull just before senility, I do feel inclined to apologize for those blanket indictments of all editors.

I do recall sometimes feeling frustrated in my kill-the-editor campaign by the fact that every time I wanted to take a flame thrower to the copy desk, one of its tireless drones would find a hideous error I’d made in a story and save my ass.  I always tried to thank the editor in question for what she or he had so beneficently done.

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