Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Out With the Old

Of all years, 2003 wasn't the best for journalism. Remember that Blair fellow, the re-emergence of that Glass guy and too many plagiarists to list? The world continued to boil, but newspaper didn't always put the bubbling in context. The war in Iraq brought both decent work and some too-credulous reports.

This is my wish for 2004:

A forceful, vigorous news media. We need it now more than ever. Our country has undergone radical changes in the past two years. The challenge for journalists of all stripes has seldom been greater.

Some have risen to the challenge. Others have not -- or do not acknowledge the reshaping of our national landscape. Perhaps the preoccupations of the news business itself have obscured the national picture.

Reporters must ask tough questions. Newspapers must be willing to publish the answers and live with the consequences. Newspapers cannot sit by and watch the changes. They must interact with them.

But what about copy editors? What role does the desk play in this?

When every week brings more news of national and international import, the basics become crucial. The desk's bread-and-butter -- grammar, spelling, fact-checking -- must be done right.

Copy editors maintain a newspaper's credibility. We must pursue our jobs with the same force and vigor as every other department. If our newspapers print accurate, fair and comprehensive reports, we have done our jobs. And not before then.