Unless the author is familiar with the publication’s stylistic guidelines, chances are their article will be edited numerous times before publication. The result is an altered voice. Editors don’t just edit grammatical errors, their job is to take the product of the author and shape it to fit their specific publication. In fiction, editors serve the writer, in the news, the writers serve the publication.
I recently wrote an article which was published by my school’s newspaper, The Varsity. At first, I was thrilled to have my name in the paper, although after reading the changes the editors made, I was not as pleased.
It’s not a matter of quality—I can write, and the original piece has been edited by others who can write. The changes they made were related to length and diction.
Length, I understand, I can put aside my Writer’s Pride. Diction, I also understand, but I refuse to simply let it go.
My article was published in their Comment section. A section dedicated to opinionated individuals who have an argument to make and facts to back themselves up. My article was too nice. They threw in words like “baffling” and “petty”—words I intentionally avoided. I didn’t want my article to be devalued by a strong bias. I understand why they did it, but I at least hoped for an email before they published the new piece.
The Contributor’s Handbook states that editors are not required to consult writers about the changes made before publication. Writers in this case, are alienated from their own hard work. It’s as if we drop off our writing and are done with, removed completely from the process.
But it’s our names attached to the article.
It’s the writers who receive criticism.
We aren’t allowed (also stated in the handbook) to reply to comments on our articles. If we were to explain and clarify certain lines, we would be speaking for the paper itself, and we do not have that jurisdiction.
(In fact, a commentator has already criticized a line from my article. Funny enough, I did not write that line.)
If the altered work is, at the end of the day, credited to the author, should we not at least be informed of the changes before publication? Do we not have that right?
I wonder if this is the case with major newspapers. I wonder how many articles I’ve disagreed with, thinking, wow what a rude way to put your opinion, but was in fact reading the editor’s words.