- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Hard labor and artistry on quality-control front

Journalism is literature in a hurry. This is true, in large part, because of the copy desk of any newspaper. Copy editors are responsible for writing crisp headlines and photo captions to grab the attention of the reader. They also must do the final sculpting of stories, applying rules of grammar and style so the words flow to hold readers' interest and checking facts to hold readers' trust. All this is done while meeting a series of deadlines throughout the night.
As copy desk chief since 1998, I am proud to lead the hardest-working desk at The Washington Times. For us, it's never about embassy parties or White House dinners; it's always about the craft. We are not driven by awards (although we have won quite a few), but by pride in what we do. We are always among the last editors remaining in the newsroom, not leaving until the next day's paper has been put to bed for good.
This was especially true on Election Night 2000. As the presidential race went from a called victory for Texas Gov. George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore to too close to call, the copy desk was here. We worked on extra editions with results of other races that changed from one hour to the next.
When the final edition was off the floor, the entire copy desk was still here. It was 5:30 a.m., and we had been on the job for more than 15 hours, long after most of the rest of the newsroom had gone home. We worked with the national and metropolitan desks to make sure the paper got out with the latest information available and that it was something we all could boast about.
But that is what we do every night, if not at such length. We're the last line of defense against error or lack of clarity, so the quality of work always must be high, and time is constantly of the essence. We work in anonymity, leaving the glory and the bylines for others. It takes a special kind of person to work on the copy desk, as our editor in chief, who once worked on a copy desk, knows. But at the end of the day, we can look at "the soup" the traditional name for the first edition and take pride in a job well done.
Patrick Tuohy, copy desk chief

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