Universal vs. Specialized Copy Desks:Unmasked

Hello readers,

I am back to discuss yet another important subject regarding the plight of copy editors and reporters alike, and how their work is valued and distributed in the current state of publication. Universal vs. Specialized copy desks have been a topic of hot debate, especially in the last few years with all of the downsizing that has been done in the world of print news because of the economy.  Is it better to combine copy desks and make more publications cost-effective, while maybe losing some continuity and quality in the work? Or…would it be better to have specialized desks, where editors and reporters would focus on their specific subject and present it well?

Over the course of this blog entry, we should be able to find out.

1. As discussed in Mallary Jean Tenore’s article, it is troubling to see so much copy editing work being outsourced because of cost. This is where the quality of the original pieces that are being produced will be and have been lost. If the work is outsourced, how will the copy editor be able to communicate effectively with the reporter if he/she has questions? How will the reporter be able to communicate with the copy editor if something needs to be fixed, or they are not happy with the changes that have been made to their work? (I understand that both have to work together, but that doesn’t mean that a copy editor couldn’t make a mistake on the other end, too.) 

2. As discussed in an ACES (American Copy Editors’ Society) commentary by Jim Thomsen, if the desks are combined, then the outsourced editors, plus the ones that are still employed by the paper will be stretched too thin to do quality work. There is a possibility that they could miss details that could either impact the stories they are working on in a negative way, or miss details that could make these stories really shine. Neither one of these outcomes are ideal; they are just a downright sad outlook on the way the newspaper industry is headed.

3. However, this move to a universal desk might be considered by some in the business to be a good move because it provides an situation that causes all staff members to not only improve their skills, but to be challenged and work more effectively as a team. According to the Poynter Institute article written by Bill Mitchell, creating common guidelines for everyone helps this transition a lot more. The universal desk creation also aids in creating a network of support and backup among employees, according to the author. Mitchell has even made an argument through this article that suggests that universal desks have helped to preserve many jobs in the newspaper business….only time will tell as far as being able to see if he was right.   

Universal vs. Specialized Desks…the battle still wages on…


About zeilma45

Hi Everyone! My name is Kaitlin Zeilman, and I am a journalism major at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. This blog is part of an assignment for my Online Journalism class. I hang out in the diners in and around my hometown quite often, so I thought that I would highlight some of my favorite ones.
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