A world without editors: The sequel
: Last month, I had a snarkfit about the ham-handed “editing” I received at the hands of the butcher overseeing the exceedingly dull and ponderous Nieman Reports. (It continued here and here.) Rather than having my story about weblogs mangled and having my views changed to fit this alleged editor’s own agenda, I killed the piece and published it here, for a larger audience, on the web.
Now a brief sequel:
Sheila Lennon, the Projo blogger, just submitted her piece and reports:
I know the difference between a deadline and a drop-dead deadline (when the presses roll), and it’s been a busy summer. I didn’t get around to filing my story till Monday.
Like Jeff, I found that Melissa rewrote some of my sentences, making them inaccurate. It was shocking to see my straightforward prose badly misunderstood, my facts replaced by someone else’s erroneous assumptions.
Which was, of course, her point: It’s an aggressive magazine-editing style — Samurai editor! Hai! — that forces a yelp and a strong reaction: “It’s not that, it’s this!” Which was exactly what she was trying to get from me. By taking on the persona of a clueless reader who would interpret my words willy-nilly, she forced me to nail every concept so it could not be misunderstood.
Sorry, Sheila, but like the mom of a mass murderer, you’re just justifying the hack.
Good editing never but never entails changing facts and making them wrong and changing the writer’s solicited opinions to make the writer disagree with herself just to provoke a reaction. That’s treating bad editing as if it were performance art: Hey, man, if you hate it, at least it got you to react.
No, a good editor who doesn’t understand something should ask a question. A good editor who doesn’t like the way something is said should say so. A good editor who doesn’t like a piece should kill it.
A bad editor mangles first and asks questions later.
Sheila is happy with her story as it turned out.
I’m happy, too. I’d rather be on the Web.
[By the way, Sheila’s post came up with funky one-word-wide formatting on my screen, so I hope I managed to read it all.]