This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Years ago I was the front-page editor of a newspaper when a call came from our reporter covering our local county council's weekly Tuesday night meeting.
The agenda that night was routine, so we weren't planning on a story for the next morning's paper. Even a small town has its threshold for news.
Turns out the council members brawled. Literally. A long-running feud finally blew up with punches between politicians. It was 11:17 p.m., less than 30 minutes from deadline. The reporter needed instructions.
"Write 12 inches. You've got 20 minutes."
After a quick call to the editor-in-chief, we rearranged the front page in record time and it was a much more arduous task in those days. We were excited. Breaking news like this didn't happen very often in our community. A copy editor the only copy editor we had, actually was waiting for the council story when it arrived.
Urgently, she wrote the huge headline that went across the top of the front page: Tempers flair in council chamber.
I looked right at that headline, and right at the clock. It was 11:45 exactly. I thought the page looked great. "Send it." I was proud of my little team's performance.
The next morning, and this is why I remember all of this so clearly, you should have seen the editor's temper flare as she demanded to know how two college-educated, professional news people managed to screw up so badly.
It's flare, not flair, of course. We both knew that, we both messed up, and then like now there's absolutely no excuse.
Readers regularly write us, baffled as to how misspellings, incorrect word choice or simple typographical errors slip into The Salt Lake Tribune.
Kimberly Worner, a Texas native who oversees nightly production as news editor, likes to say this about our mistakes: "They're like the belly of a fat man wearing a T-shirt that's too small. It's there, and there's no hiding it."
No, there isn't. Our copy editors handle about a hundred different stories for a typical Tribune edition. The pace is brisk, and the work is challenging, fun and rewarding. Copy editors rarely receive the credit of a published byline as reporters and photographers do, so job satisfaction comes from a job well done. The adrenaline rush of deadline and having a key role in putting together an entire product rather than a single story are factors that often attract journalists to the specialty of copy editing.
But, like a baseball umpire, copy editors' work is generally noticed even by their colleagues only if there is a mistake.
Each page of The Tribune is double-checked nightly and section fronts receive even more scrutiny. Each day copy editors check dozens of facts, write scores of headlines and photo captions, design all of The Tribune's pages, choose the national and international stories from our wire services, and read every story published.
Perfection the only standard that's acceptable is the goal each day.
Michael A. Anastasi is The Tribune's managing editor who oversees production.