From The Red Room’s interview with Mary Norris, who discusses what it’s like to be a copy editor at the New Yorker.
It may not be three martini lunches but this is about as old school as the media world will ever get again.
And we’re not just talking about the hours (though, wow); the copy-editing process Norris describes is unheard of in the online world (also untenable, but reassuring to know it still exists):
The hours at The New Yorker are from 10 to six, and I try to be on time, as it is embarrassing to be chronically late when you don’t have to be at the office till 10. We have a weekly schedule for closing the contents of an issue in an orderly fashion: fiction closes early in the week, critics at midweek, and the longer, more demanding pieces near the end of the week; Talk of the Town and Comment go to press last, on Friday. The head of the copy department, Ann Goldstein, parcels out the week’s tasks, matching up who is available with what needs to be done. If the lineup changes, we readjust.
There are four full-time O.K.’ers, as well as a team of about six proofreaders, some of whom act as O.K.’ers when we need them. Basically, on the day a piece closes, you read it, and give the editor your query proof, which will also contain the queries of a second proofreader, and after the editor has entered all the acceptable changes and sent the new version to the Makeup Department, you read that new version. There will sometimes be a “closing meeting,” when the editor, the writer, the fact checker, and the O.K.’er sit down together over the page proof and discuss final changes. The O.K.’er then copies these changes onto a pristine proof called the Reader’s (to keep the paper trail) and enters them into the electronic file, and sends the revised piece back to Makeup. The next version is read against the Reader’s proof by another layer of proofreaders, the night foundry readers. The system is full of redundancy and safety nets.
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