"I'm feeling more than a bit xenophobic these days," writes Roy Peter Clark in Poynter Online, "and I'm blaming it on the movement to outsource newspaper copy editing services to India."
I need copy editors to know that Eva Longoria is not the wife of Tampa Bay Rays baseball phenom Evan Longoria. I need them to know that a Florida cracker is not something you eat, and that it may or may not be offensive to some readers. I need a Rhode Island copy editor to know that you don't dig for clams; you dig for quahogs, a word of Indian origin -- American Indian. I need copy editors who know that Jim Morrison of The Doors went to St. Pete Junior College, that beat writer Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Fla., but is buried in Lowell, Mass. I want them to know that Lakewood High School is different from Lakewood Ranch High School. I want them to know that 54th Avenue North in St. Petersburg is 108 blocks north of 54th Avenue South. ...
I need copy editors who are more than comma catchers. I need them to be language masters, the last line of defense, the standard bearers of what my newspaper stands for, my safety net. I want to be able to walk up to a copy editor's desk and say "great catch, thanks for saving my ass." Must I now learn the Hindi word for ass?
For a slightly different opinion of the usefulness of copyeditors, see Times (U.K.) restaurant reviewer Giles Coren's letter to the subeditors who--horrors!--removed a vital indefinite article without checking first with His Authorship. (In the U.K., copyeditors are called subeditors or "subs.") Via Editrix, who, like Clark, invokes the "saving your ass" argument and adds: "What those copy editors need isn't a lecture from you. What they need is a raise and an attaboy now and then."