First, we heard about the death of the sub-editor. The sub-editor, they said, is expendable. Next, from Johnston Press, came the death of the editor. Don’t bother reading what you publish, JP told editors.
Apparently, editing has fallen so far out of favour that a piece on the Atlantic’s website by Alexis Madrigal is entitled “Why editing could make a comeback.”
But the piece, along with a recent essay by Paul Ford which it cites, speaks out for the value of editors everywhere, “those whose names do not appear underneath the headline”.
Here’s my analogy. We take good roads for granted in the US; our highway system just works, so you start to think of it almost as geology, almost immutable and close to eternal. But if you take a drive on the backroads of the Yucatan, the forest encroaches, large potholes appear out of nowhere, and the signage is indecipherable, regardless of your level of Spanish.
The Internet can feel like a jungle, and journalists are in the business of providing paths through the territory. Writers might blaze the trails, but editors maintain the roads. The vines are creeping and the potholes are growing. And maybe letting the road deteriorate is really the only way to make audiences and media companies realize the value of those whose names do not appear underneath the headline.