Saturday, November 14, 2009

Editors who sing for their supper

A newspaper is only as good as its local assignment desk, those editors who largely determine the content of the paper by virtue of assigning reporters to cover certain stories. I had a lot of time to observe The Record's assignment desk when I worked there as a news copy editor for nearly two decades.

Copy editors are a lot like Toyota mechanics: Toyotas may have a reputation for reliability, but the mechanics see all the broken ones. The Record may have a good reputation, too, but the copy editors see all  the broken stories -- stories that have been promoted, edited and approved by those lazy assignment editors.

in touch with the outside

Here is a ditty I wrote about six or seven years ago that reflects my experience with assignment editors starting in September 1989, when I became a copy editor after 10 years as a reporter at The Record.

When I wrote this song, the newsroom was still in Hackensack and the assignment desk was run by Deirdre Sykes, an immovable force whose shrieks and peals of laughter echoed across the room late every weekday afternoon -- no matter how grim the news that day -- prompting homicidal thoughts in nearby staffers.


    We sit on our fat asses to scan the 

competing papers,
    Then order out for linguini, oil, garlic and capers;
    We run a newsroom that can’t write straight,
    And our copy’s arrival is frequently late;
    We can’t write a nut graf and we’re lousy at math,
    So we avoid reporting on community wrath;
    Challenge authority?
    No thanks. That’s not our priority!
    We assign reporters to cover lots of stories,
    Rapes, council meetings, train wrecks, but never Tories;  

    Our unsteady publisher hits the sauce each and every day,
    So his attitude toward probing local news coverage is, 

What the hey!

    Our newsroom is busy, it’s often in a tizzy,
    With editors, photographers, reporters and graphics people 

running to and fro,
    Yet we’re just a bunch of journalism hos.
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