The process of writing, editing, and publishing things for a large audience tends to be much more haphazard than either our detractors or fans think, and more messy that we'd all like to let on, at both glossy prestigious magazines and at charmingly amateurish blogs [broad wink].
So one of my favorite things that Gawker features editor Tom Scocca wrote on his old Slate blog was this post called "Notes on the Editing (Extended Version)." At the time Tom wrote his post, the New York Times Magazine had just added editor credits alongside author bylines—a gesture at transparency and disclosure, but not much else.
So Tom asked: What would more fully disclosing editor credits look like? He wrote some samples:
Another story that had been scheduled for this issue fell through, and [EDITOR A] remembered seeing this piece in the slush pile. He did not think it was a good piece at all, but it struck him as an easy one to illustrate, and he could see a quick and simple way to rewrite it from a D to a low B minus. It filled the hole.
This story was essentially perfect when it came in. [EDITOR C] called [EDITOR D] into her office to have a look at it. "Am I nuts," she said, "or could we just print this thing right now?" [EDITOR D] skimmed the first three pages. "Jesus," he said. "Yeah, I think you're all good. You should see the pile of crap that [OTHER WRITER] left for me to deal with." [EDITOR C] hung onto it for another day, for appearances' sake, and then sent it along.
[EDITOR F] hated this piece the minute she saw it. Boring, self-indulgent, and almost indistinguishable from the last two pieces by the same writer. But the writer in question was a senior writer, with a famous name and a big contract—and, moreover, was a social acquaintance of both the editor in chief and the publisher. And [EDITOR F] knew from long experience that he would yell and fuss about any revisions to his copy. This piece makes him look like an asshole , she thought, because heis an asshole . She changed a few common words to fit the house style (he had been writing for them for 20 years, and refused to learn the house style) and gave it to the copy desk with a shrug and a roll of her eyes.
Gawker won't be adding thorough editing credits to its stories anytime soon, if only because they would often read: "No one edited this." (Or, "[EDITOR A] glanced at this to make sure the words in the headline were spelled right and the content wasn't egregiously offensive.") But I appreciate the effect of Tom's notes. Sausage, I hope, will act as a serial version of those in-depth disclosures: A casual and transparent look at how and why we make decisions about what we publish.