Does anyone notice careless editing but an editor? If I thought the answer was no, I wouldn’t be writing this. A badly edited story antagonizes readers even if they can’t always put their finger on what’s bugging them. I doubt if anyone else fetched a pen and started marking up the lead story in Sunday’s Tribune, but I bet that story irritated a lot of people besides me.
Like a lot of the worst — as well as some of the best — writing in newspapers, “A Governor Under Siege” must have been put together in a hurry. The earliest Sunday edition comes off the press Saturday morning, which means the writing is wrapped up on Friday. And this story by David Mendell and Ray Long had breaking news to deal with: they identified Rod Blagojevich as the “Public Official A” implicated Friday by the federal government in an alleged shakedown scheme.
The result was a wheel-spinning narrative that couldn’t get out of the snow bank. Paragraph 7: “These days, the governor conducts much of his public business from his North Side home, reluctant to venture forth into Springfield or other public arenas where he might feel exposed.” Paragraph 11: “Blagojevich seldom works from a public office, either at the Thompson Center in Chicago or the Capitol.” Paragraph 14: “Blagojevich instead spends much of his time at his home, running the state by conference call.”
Paragraph 11: “Christopher Kelly, a second member of his inner circle of political advisers, was indicted on tax evasion charges.” Paragraph 20: “And Kelly, another close adviser and friend, was indicted this month on federal tax fraud charges.”
Good editing is invisible, but it’s expensive. It’s a place where a newspaper can cut costs. But it’s not a smart place to cut them, because bad editing is very visible.