Best Proof that a Good Copyeditor Is Hard to Find (2002)
Sun-Sentinel, Sunday, April 28, 2002
The copyeditor is like a baseball umpire: No one notices unless there's a screwup. And hey, in the newspaper business, everybody makes mistakes. That's why we run corrections (really, really small, somewhere we hope no one will see them). And sometimes, it's more likely the writer's fault. Like in the Sentinel's Sports section, when Dave Joseph wrote a commentary on Ricky Williams. Really, any writer who would begin a sentence, "In the words of Meat Loaf..." without even a hint of irony can't be the sort of fellow who makes for a fun night in the ol' copyediting slot. But shouldn't he know that, when reaching for a hackneyed cliché to describe Williams's propensity for driving fast, the phrase to use would be "put the pedal to the metal," not "put the peddle to the metal"? We are left to conclude that this guy's copy was so riddled with other errors that this one just slipped by the Sentinel's grammar police. In the case of the headline for Vanessa Bauzá's Cuba Notebook column in the International section of the same issue, though, we're afraid we must blame the beleaguered copy desk. At daily papers, copyeditors almost always write the headlines -- and if they don't, they're still responsible for checking the things and are supposed to be trebly vigilant for gaffes that will appear in 30-point, small-caps type. The headline in question: "In Fox flap, Castro flaunts convention." OK, all you grammarians out there, figure it out. The column describes Fidel Castro's revealing tapes of a conversation with Mexican President Vicente Fox, which is a diplomatic no-no, which flies in the face of tradition, which means that Castro... flouts convention. The horror, the horror.