Errors, errors II – whiz kids and horse sense

Posted: May 14, 2009 in journalism, students

Mistakes are common in every newspaper and however hard one tries to stop them, they will still creep in. These are the hazards of a newspaper job and unlike companies where you can apply Six Sigma to reduce errors, the editorial department of a newspaper cannot work with such checks.
In the last decade or so, a lot of media houses hired savvy marketing and HR whiz kids at senior positions in the company hierarchy. These guys came straight from selling soap or pharmaceuticals and were weaned on Japanese working methodologies and the wonders of Six Sigma, but had little or NO experience in running a newspaper. They believed that those methods would transform the newspaper and make it profitable. In that they were right. In Circulation or Response, where figures measure success, something like Six Sigma might have worked, but not in Editorial.
Here is some of the cockeyed logic that I’ve heard when I worked for a national newspaper:
* If one marketing executive can put in x amount of work in 8 hours why can’t a journalist do the same?
* If a copy editor takes say 90 minutes to edit and make a page, then he/she should make five pages per shift.
* Since computers have made it easier to work there should be fewer people to do more work. So why have so many copy editors.
Frankly, most journalists had no answer to this kind of bizarre logic and after a while most of us just stopped bothering. So when they started removing people under the excuse that the editorial department was overstaffed, it was the junior most (and brightest) kids that went first, leaving newspapers with people whose competency levels were not that hot. What they hadn’t bargained for was that the language and computer skills of most of the ones left behind, or for that matter most journalists, was either average or below average, with a few exceptions.
So, what one got was badly edited copies with dull and often incorrect headlines. Seniors, whose job it was to rewrite copies and check pages, rather than spend time making them, were suddenly doing all three and more, because deadlines were regularly going haywire. It put a huge amount of pressure on them and some of them cracked. And when Circulation began complaining about unsold copies and readers sent angry emails about the shoddy product, it was the editorial that became the culprit!
Any wonder that the editing in most newspapers is so horrendous?

  1. Ever Loved says:

    I appriciate Shri Mohan 4 this post it is really nice Work From Home India

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