Thursday, August 13, 2009

Life on an Idiotorial Review Board

I find myself on the Editorial Review Board of a fairly prestigious professional journal.

I was offered the uncompensated post because I am verbose and possibly because I tell one and all that once, about 100 years ago, I was an honest (read "print") journalist: reporter, feature writer, and editor of many titles.

As I read the articles submitted for ERB member consideration, I am reminded that the authors are, for the most part, not professional writers; they are vendors, sometimes techies, sometimes marketing or sales, sometimes execs.

Some have trouble writing their own name - or so it seems..

The prestigious professional journal is supported by advertising revenue; translation, find a way to clean up an advertiser's copy and run it.

Sometimes clean-up is easy, and then other times ... well, suffice it to write that - never mind, this is a family blog.

I do wonder why some folks at larger organizations don't ask their PR people to ghost the articles.

Egos, perhaps. Or they have reason to believe that if PR gets involved, Legal also will get involved and by the time the internal review cycle is complete the product will have been discontinued and the only thing that will remain from a 1,200-word article is the company name.

Having figuratively worn eye shade and sleeve garters, the sign of a "real" copy editor, I cave into my inner pressure to edit the copy on my desktop. Not every fractured phrase, but most tortured text gets at least a comment. One or two articles were so bad - to my mind - that I confess to tossing in the towel and suggesting a rewrite. (Turned out the rewrite was worse that the original article. No good deed, etc.)

I am finding that my "take" on articles frequently is at odds with a few of my fellows on the ERB.

Some reviewers post their comments using REPLY ALL so that "all" will have the benefit of their opinion. Others, this scrivener included, prefer to let everyone - except the Editor-in-Chief, of course - come to their own, independent, conclusions.

I gather that some reviewers want academic-length articles; articles that run to 10 times the allowable 1,200 to 1,500-word length for our publication.

No matter how focused an article, it seems one or two reviewers criticize the author for not providing sufficient information.

Others nit-pick an article because the author is a vendor (remember, vendors finance this publication) and even though the vendor's product may not be named in the article, it's "too commercial." 'Course sometimes the nit-picker happens to sell a competing product and that might color the reviewer's critique.

Back in the day when I was a managing editor, I could call a writer aside and provide some mentoring; usually that was sufficient to get our budding journalist back on track.

That luxury is absent in my present role as an "idiotorial" review board member.

I'm flattered, of course, that I was considered worthy of this uncompensated (did I mention that before) and apparently anonymous honor.

For once I'm glad someone else is Editor-in-Chief, the one who has to balance the comments of the ERB (and make a final decision that is bound to raise the hackles of some) and who has to diplomatically return really awful copy to its author who probably works for an important advertiser (and trust me, almost ALL advertisers are important).

Maybe I'm a masochist , but in my heart-of-hearts, I enjoy the challenge of the honor. Just knowing that the burden of dealing with opinionated people like me falls on someone else's shoulders lets me perform the assignment with a bit less concern for the final product - or the author's feelings.

Sometimes, however, I'd really like to share my thoughts about a few of my fellow ERB members ... but then I mellow out until the next critique crosses my desk.

Meanwhile, I'm having second thoughts about authoring articles for the journal; I couldn't take some of the criticism that is dealt out in the way it is dealt out.

John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity practitioner
Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale FL
Planner @

No comments: