Five Things Editors Don’t Want to Hear From Freelance Writers

I wrote a lot for my high school paper.

I can write any kind of story.

I hope you won’t edit the style out of my story.

This isn’t the piece we talked about but I think you’ll like it.

I went a little over the word count.

A Love Letter to Copy Editors Set to Music

To go with the May 7 post, “Copy Editors Are Not Expendable: What We Do Matters,” here’s a musical version of a copy editors’ lament. From Poynter in 2009:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editor Laments Copy Desk Layoffs in Song

Christopher Ave has publicly referred to himself as a human safety net who double-checks facts, corrects punctuation and fixes grammatical errors.

He’s not a copy editor, though.

He’s a journalist and musician who wrote and recorded a first-person song, “Copy Editor’s Lament,” about a copy editor being laid off.

Remembering Richard Todd’s Life As an Editor and His Advice on How Editors Can Help Writers Do Great Work

The Atlantic’s Cullen Murphy has written a wonderful tribute, “Remember a Man Who Had the Thing Itself,”  about Richard Todd, an editor who died in April. Todd was an editor at The Atlantic throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. The opening of Murphy’s remembrance:

“Copy Editors Are Not Expendable: What We Do Matters”

This was posted on Twitter by Colleen Schrappen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper, owned by Lee Enterprises, laid off all its copy editors:

Copy editors are not proofreaders. We are not fact-checkers or headline writers. And, despite the prevalence of decisions that seem to contradict this: We are not expendable.

We are journalists—as integral to any news organization as reporters, photographers, and managing editors.

Eliminating the copy desk is like pulling at a strand on a sweater. It creates a hole that leaves the surrounding strands vulnerable. You can try to patch it, but the fabric has been weakened. The gape will be noticed.

Getting the Small Things Right

From a Washington Post interview with Jonathan Finer, a former Post reporter who then became a State Department official and more recently a political consultant on the movie “Long Shot”:

How did you approach your fact-checking? I mean, it obviously couldn’t be exactly realistic.

I saw the goal as being that the ridiculous things would be intentional instead of things that are very easy to get wrong. . . . Of course, I know that a secretary of state wouldn’t go on a drug-fueled bender in Paris, but I thought about what it might look like if she did.

Writing Irish Haiku and Journalism Haiku: “Seas of Black Coffee…”

Poetry Ireland held a haiku competition and Bill O’Sullivan, the proudly Irish-American senior managing editor of the Washingtonian, was highly commended for this entry:

last orchid flower
a child’s winter jacket

And commended for this one:

new year’s eve harbor
inside the wind

The winning entry from Ella Wagemakers of The Netherlands:

apple harvest
how my hands
have ripened


In 2016 Poynter held a haiku journalism contest and I enjoyed trying the form and got an honorable mention. Here’s a post about that contest:

The Fabulous Bennet Boys: A Story About Their Equally Talented Father When He Was a Political Speechwriter

Senator Michael Bennet said yesterday he is running for President, causing his brother, James Bennet, editor of the New York Times editorial page, to say that he would recuse himself from any involvement in opinion coverage of the 2020 presidential election,

Michael and James are the sons of the late Douglas Bennet, known mostly for running NPR and then Wesleyan College. Earlier, in 1967 and 1968, Doug had been the chief speechwriter for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, where we crossed paths.

The Wisdom of A.J. Liebling

“I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.”

“People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.”

When Sports Magazines Did Great Journalism

—From an April 30th Washington Post story, “ESPN the Magazine is closing down,” by Ben Strauss:

In the spring of 1998, ESPN launched a magazine, with a cover featuring young stars primed to take over their sports. Kobe Bryant led a cast that also included Alex Rodriguez, Kordell Stewart and Eric Lindros. The quartet stared straight ahead, steely-eyed, aside a headline that read “Next” in big red letters. It was a reference to the aspirations of the magazine, too. . . .

Coming Up With Story Ideas

The First Rule of Brainstorming:

Some ideas work, some don’t, but there are no bad ideas.