I've received an exciting update to this post I first put up earlier this month. I was told today that Charles Portis is a long-ago former colleague of my newspaper's former managing editor and was best man at his wedding. More to the point, this former managing editor brought the Inquirer's copy desks into the modern age, converting them from pre-retirement way stations for burned-out reporters into a unit with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Did my ex-M.E. get his interest in copy editors from Portis? Did Portis learn to respect copy editors from my ex-M.E.? Or did they imbibe together from a wellspring of respect for copy desks that runs deep beneath the Arkansas soil?
first heard of Charles Portis' 1979 novel The Dog of the South
from a Detectives Beyond Borders reader who thought I might be interested because the book's protagonist is a newspaper copy editor who has recently quit his job.
Here's the paragraph that persuaded me to buy the book:
"I had sat next to Dupree on the rim of the copy desk. In fact, I had gotten him the job. He was not well liked in the newsroom. He radiated dense waves of hatred and he never joined in the friendly banter around the desk, he who had once been so lively. He hardly spoke at all except to mutter `Crap' or `What crap' as he processed news matter, affecting a contempt for all events on earth and for the written accounts of those events."
Now, what the hell does Charles Portis know about newspapers? Why would a copy editor complain, especially about the news matter he processed? That sort of thing can only foster disunity in the newsroom.
(Portis is probably best known as the author of True Grit
, which became the basis for two movies. Read more at the Unofficial Charles Portis Web site
© Peter Rozovsky 2012
Labels: Charles Portis, copy editors, Gene Foreman, Humor, newspapers