I am mightily pissed off. … I don’t really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. … There is no length issue. This is someone thinking “I’ll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and I know best.”
Well, you fucking don’t.
So. A letter written to a Times sub from writer Giles Coren surfaced at the Guardian – and it’s just great. His main dig’s the editor’s choice to remove an indefinite article – the letter a! – from a final sentence which, well (to be frank), made sullen trash of an alright chunk of writing.
Here’s the gist –
This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.
1) ‘Nosh’, as I’m sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German ‘naschen’. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, ‘nosh’, means simply ‘food’. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the ‘a’. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, ‘nosh’ means “a session of eating” – in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of ‘scoff’. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn’t mean? I don’t know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it’s easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.
2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as “sexually-charged”. I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word ‘gaily’ as a gentle nudge. And “looking for a nosh” has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. “looking for nosh” does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you’ve fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don’t you read the copy?
– but I recommend your reading the rest. Coren ain’t off the hook; I’ve printed, cropped, and put to considerable thought cheaply framing this jihad against editorial injustice – but only the writer-by-reader-demand’s got the sway to get crude with his paycheck, and his isn’t an example to be lead by. What’s really in the undercurrent is the clash between the twentieth century Author and the twenty-first century – not editor, but – Content Strategist. And such is the central theme to the Ms. Friedman’s blog There Are No Rules, where – like a kid and a candycane and a stranger – I got real spooked at my first back-alley look at the author’s role in a multi-media market. The times, they are a-changing indeed!
Okay, okay. This isn’t completely the case, but it’s definitely pertinent to Journalists – like Coren. The Futurist‘s Patrick Tucker doesn’t undermine what writers do, but he warns against the Romanticization of Authorship wherein writers with many a stripe (like you, journalist; like me, blogger) but fill a gap with content. We’re not authors any more just like we quit being artistes some good while back.
Hm. So, if Tucker’s got it right – Coren’s blunder ain’t so much blubbering-up attitude with the folk keeping him in print – we still-bottom-rung scribblers ought best mind our manners – but it’s his moral investment into High Work boiled down to a resume line: from author to content provider.
There is a great deal of romance, authority, and credibility tied up in this idea of being an author. And it sounds distinctly less sexy (and even less beneficial) to be a “content provider.” And while I think we should keep playing with the words until it sounds desirable for everyone involved, the sooner we can shift our thinking here, the more viable we will all remain. – Jane Friedman
The saddest thing is that the introduction of Content Provider into jargon makes it necessary to qualify what it means now to be an Author.