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Pity the Poor Copy Editor

In the old days, copy editors often seemed to be the Rodney Dangerfields of their profession, i.e., they didn't get no respect.

At least they had jobs.

These days, you can visit many a news organization that doesn't even have any copy editors at all -- especially in the online world, where Microsoft Word is presumed to obviate any need for such help.

After a recent visit to the much-heralded Newseum in Washington, D.C. -- which honors everything from the Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographers to a memorial for journalists who died chasing the news -- Lawrence Downes confessed in a New York Times article that he was disappointed not to see any tribute to copy editors, even though, as he noted: "Copy editors are more powerful than proofreaders. They untangle twisted prose. They are surgeons, removing growths of error and irrelevance."

So much for respect. Meanwhile, the few remaining copy editors still employed have a new worry -- getting outsourced to India.

The Orange Country Register announced today that it will test outsourcing some of its copy editing work to Mindworks Global Media, which is based outside of New Delhi. "This is a small-scale test, which will not touch our local reporting or decision-making. Our own editors will oversee this work," an editor at the paper told AP.

Like almost all U.S. newspapers, the Register has been struggling with circulation and advertising declines, so much so that it recently fell from being the third-largest newspaper in California to the fifth-largest, behind the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Sacramento Bee.
The company has endured three rounds of layoffs in the past year, most recently in April when about 90 employees lost their jobs. Employees were also offered a voluntary severance program in 2006.

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