Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Greg Peck: How Scott Angus made me a better journalist

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Scott Angus
March 12, 2015

Scott Angus will acknowledge that one of his biggest regrets as leader of The Gazette newsroom was his inability to reduce copy-editing errors. I blame it on Pat Burkhard.

Well, OK, it's not really Pat's fault that errors creep into our news columns on a daily basis. After all, Pat retired in 1993 and died in 2006.

Those who worked with her, however, remember a hard-nosed woman, a stickler for details and someone you didn't want to cross. She reminded me of a librarian from my school days who ruled with an iron fist.

Anyway, today's Gazette newsroom is filled with lots of us in our 50s and lots of young journalists. I started here in December 1987 and appreciated Pat's guidance, but we haven't had someone like her since she retired. Budget squeezes repeatedly have reduced our staff. Gone is the sort of person who specializes in copy editing.

Don't think Scott hasn't tried to upgrade our writing. I've tapped his vast knowledge for great insight through the years about writing simply and clearly. For example, I know better than to write “utilize” when “use” will do. He has edited nearly every editorial I've written—one almost every weekday for more than 12 years. Having him point out the errors of my ways has greatly improved my writing.

Just last week, Scott emailed me about two problems in one editorial—one an issue with parallel construction and the other a failure to immediately put the subject after a long introductory clause. Some lessons take longer than others to sink in.

I responded by asking if he would be emailing me from home whenever he found an error in an editorial after he leaves The Gazette. He replied: Do you really want me to?

Of course, I said. I told him I appreciated his instruction. Too bad some of our younger reporters haven't had the many years of seasoning under Scott that I have enjoyed. On-the-job training can't be beat. You learn more about good journalism in a month or two in a newsroom—at least, in this newsroom—than you will in a full year of college.

Local News Editor Sid Schwartz moves up to Scott's job Friday. Between the loss of Scott and departures of business reporter/editor Jim Leute and photographer Bill Olmsted, this newsroom has lost almost 100 years of institutional knowledge in the past few weeks. It will take years to replace their talents, if it's even possible.

Sid has good ideas, and one of those is to move Ann Fiore from kicks (entertainment) and Marketplace editor into a role where she spends most of her time editing local stories. She has copy-editing talents that many of us here lack. She can't fill this new role, however, until we fill the three vacancies.

If Sid and Ann eventually help our copy read more cleanly, like in the days of Pat Burkhard, we'll produce a better newspaper and reduce frustrations among our many eagle-eyed readers.

Good luck in your semi-retirement, Scott, and thanks again for the lessons. Don't hesitate to email us!

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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