University milestone dashed by distant copy editing

My university just received approval to launch its first PhD program in almost 50 years. Neil Offen of the Durham (NC) Herald-Sun wrote a really nice article on this milestone, one of enough importance locally to garner the top of page one. However, the copy editor indicated in the header that the new PhD program was at the much larger system university 25 miles to the southeast, in a county not even listed above in the coverage area.

NC State and NC Central are not the same university.

How could this happen when there are only two universities and one community college in the city of Durham, NC?

Back in August, the owner of our local newspaper decided to move copy editing over 600 miles away to the Owensboro (Kentucky) Messenger-Inquirer. When this came down, friend of the blog and former Herald-Sun reporter Ginny Skal gave a personal perspective on this increasingly common trend in the newspaper industry to cut costs.

I don’t blame the Herald-Sun staff at all. I assume that they sent out a perfectly accurate header with “NC Central University” and it was “corrected” by a Kentucky-based editor who had only ever heard of NC State.

A minor issue, you might say. But at my university I’m certain that many would like to proudly display the frontpage news of our major accomplishment, one that university researchers and administrators have been working toward for over ten years.

Well, at least Photoshop allows one to easily remove the errant header.

I guess that’s worth eliminating some local jobs.

Addendum (10 October, 7:30 am):  Former newspaper man R.L. Bynum alerted me to two posts he wrote recently at his Running Tar Heel blog a few months ago on moving copy-desk and design responsibilities off-site.

From July, a review of the unfortunate metastasis of this phenomenon:
Off-site copy desks: A bad idea that keeps spreading

From September, some examples that are afflicting the Raleigh News & Observer: It really should be called the Charlotte N&O

Thanks for the tips, R.L.

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6 Responses to University milestone dashed by distant copy editing

  1. I don’t think any copy editor worth his/her proverbial red pen would ever make a change like that without at least, you know, checking Google to see if such a place exists. How could someone accidentally type “Central” for “State”? Seems unlikely, and “unlikely” should always set off an editor’s alarm system against making an uninvestigated change. Also, are copy editors so woefully underpaid in Kentucky relative to NC that the $$ saved warrants not using someone local?

  2. David Kroll says:

    Emily, just to be clear, it was supposed to be “Central” but they wrote “State” instead. The article, however, did have Central properly attributed. It was the boldfaced “State” that got my attention near the masthead.

    I believe that the owner of the paper was consolidating its copy editing at another paper it owns. This common practice is a bit less silly such as when McClatchy consolidated the Raleigh News & Observer’s copy editing at the Charlotte Observer (about 160 miles away). There have still been some flubs. But Kentucky? Really?

  3. Cindy Salo says:


    Oh, what a shame! You, and everyone at NC Central, must be just heart broken.

    (I have nightmares about making a mistake like this and the copy editors not catching it!)


  4. David Kroll says:

    To be honest, Cindy, what really pains me is that the good folks here in Durham who do a fabulous reporting job – especially Neil Offen – are really trying to make this new system work. Accuracy on things like names and places really do require copy editing by locals. I greatly respect my newspaper colleagues for doing their very best in these lean times for the industry.

  5. Right…my unclear reference to the “someone” was the copy editor making the assumption that “Central” could somehow be an accidental sub for “State.” It really couldn’t. I would never look at the word “Central” and think, “Hmmm. I bet they meant to put ‘State’ there because I live in Kentucky and know better, so I’ll change it to ‘State’.”

  6. Keith Clark says:

    The Sanford Herald is owned by the same company. Having the layout in Kentucky results in embarrassing errors that reflect poorly on our local newspaper.