Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why editing matters.

Greetings! I am back now from New York City, having enjoyed the authentic New York experience, i.e., a mid-March sleetstorm. The joys of such a thing in The City include not having proper footware (I do not recommend Mary-Jane-style shoes, as the snow can fall or seep right in from the top), gale-force winds funneled by tall buildings, and stepping off curbs into feet-deep snow banks which may or may not contain a puddle of ice water at the bottom.

But now that I have spent the better part of the week considering the processes and theoretical backing for editorial practice, I need to comment on this, from the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON, March 19 — A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industrylobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a humanrole in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

Well, I am just back from the biennial conference of the Society for Textual Scholarship, and I am here to tell you that neither I nor the STS support the version of editing conducted by Mr. Cooney.

For starters, Mr. Cooney appears not to have included any kind of note on the text, indicating what he used as his copytext, what his principles for emendations were, and what his editorial perspective was. And where was his table of emendations, indicating modifications made to support 2001 knowledge in favor of more up-to-date information? Furthermore, any good textual editor (and I do have some experience here) knows that rather than modifying the text to suit a particular point of you.

How many times must we tell you, Mr. Cooney: Follow. The. Text.

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