Saturday, August 04, 2007

More good sense ...

... as usual, Ron Rosenbaum is right about In Praise of "In Praise of Editors" by Gary Kamiya. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I get edited and I edit. I have been unusually fortunate in editors. The excellent Jeff Weinstein was succeeded by the equally excellent John Timpane. Thanks to them I am always more or less presentable in print.

But what I especially like about Kamiya's piece is his well-reasoned position regardiung the internet and blogging:

In the brave new world of self-publishing, editors are an endangered species. This isn't all bad. It's good that anyone who wants to publish and has access to a computer now faces no barriers. And some bloggers don't really need editors: Their prose is fluent and conversational, and readers have no expectation that the work is going to be elegant or beautifully shaped. Its main function is to communicate clearly. It isn't intended to last.

Still, editors and editing will be more important than ever as the Internet age rockets forward. The online world is not just about millions of newborn writers exulting in their powers. It's also about millions of readers who need to sort through this endless universe and figure out which writers are worth reading. Who is going to sort out the exceptional ones? Editors, of some type. Some smart group of people is going to have to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the more refined that separation process is, the more talent -- and perhaps more training -- will be required.

We already use other readers to sort things out for us: My bookmarks are mostly referrals from writers I've learned to trust. Some utopians may dream that an anarcho-Wikipedia model will prevail, that a vast self-correcting democracy of amateurs will end up pointing readers to the most worthwhile pieces. But that is only "editing" in its crudest, most general form -- it's really sorting. In the chaotic new online universe, the old-fashioned, elitist, non-democratic system of sorting information will become increasingly important, if only because it enforces a salutary reduction of the sheer mind-swamping number of options available. The real problem is glut, and it's only going to get worse.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

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