A planned byline strike at the Minneapolis Star Tribune began as scheduled Tuesday, January 26. CityPages, a Minneapolis/St. Paul news blog, reports no stories in the Star Tribune will carry an author’s byline as employees protest the impending loss of almost 30 newsroom jobs, including a slew of the newspaper’s copy editors.
In lieu of copy editors, the Star Tribune plans to rely on a new mandate for writers and editors to start using spellcheck software to catch errors and typos.
Craig Silverman at the Columbia Journalism Review criticized the move earlier this month, writing,
Asking reporters to use a spellchecker is not a path to accuracy. Spellcheckers can just as easily introduce as many errors as they correct. (Two words: “beef panties.”) The mandate for reporters to read over work after it has been edited is useful and, frankly, should already have been in place. But the larger issue is that these proposed quality control measures are unlikely to do much to enhance the level of accuracy. It would be a stretch to call them Band-Aid solutions.
The strike is the result of a call from the Star Tribune Newspaper Guild, and is intended to “honor those workers, and express dissatisfaction that the pain was not spread equally throughout the newsroom,” according to CityPages.
The Guild’s statement reads,
“These employees may be nameless to our readers, but they represent the very core of our operation. This action is intended to show our deep gratitude and respect to our co-workers who are leaving,” said Janet Moore and David Chanen, co-chairs of the Star Tribune Newspaper Guild.
In a letter to Editor Nancy Barnes, the Guild writes “A-scale copy editors represent 424 years of service to the Star Tribune; we believe their loss will likely affect the quality of our newspaper and website.”
Barnes replies “the plan that we came up with, we believe, is in the best long-term interests of the newsroom and the company.”
Time will tell. However, considering the amount of errors produced even by newspapers that still employ copy editors–like the Washington Post–a plan to use spellcheck software to do this vital job seems misguided at the very least.
From a quick check of the Star Tribune’s Web site on the 26th, it looked like some staff bylines had been removed, while some others remained.