“A good editor is like a pair of Spanx; firming up the body, making the subject look good, and absolutely invisible.”
I have upon many occasions read over a potential column a dozen or more times. The day after my deadline I find a small misspelling or other obvious mistake. It is so obvious after the fact. I have found editing your own column is a sure-fire recipe to submit an erroneous collection of words.
In writing and editing oneself there is a phenomenon I refer to as reading over a mistake. Your brain understands what you were trying to write and therefore you read over a small blooper. Sometimes such a one-word error can alter the whole meaning of a sentence or interrupt a thought. Auto correct is a writer’s most trusted friend and a columnist’s most hated enemy.
When you submit any form of writing for publication in a newspaper you only have one true friend. That friend is your editor. Editors are like picture windows. Each has their own view. Editing is a very objective craft.
I once submitted a column that had as its main emphasis that I was not white enough for RFD-TV. I thought it was a hilarious piece of biting satire. My editor thought it might be a bit racially insensitive. Guess who won. Well, do any of you remember reading that column?
Susan Duncan has been my editor for over five years. I would suggest that as a non-staff columnist I might sometimes be a bit of a challenge to edit. I might tend to stretch the boundaries every now and then.
Susan has been overly patient, kind and understanding with me on a weekly basis. Mostly she has been generous to me as a writer. She has been so supportive and encouraging. Her feedback has been way more kind than critical. I think in her I found a kindred writing spirit.
I went to lunch with Susan for a farewell thing this past week. I tried to remember how many actual minutes we were ever face-to-face. Our relationship was very friendly, personal and intimate in a way that many will never understand. Writing is a very personal venture. Anything short of a symbiotic relationship between a writer and an editor would be less than comfortable.
People like Susan and I have a respect for the written word and our language. Just for her entertainment I am going to quote a Conan O’Brien monologue bit. “The Oxford Dictionary has named ‘selfie’ the word of the year, narrowly beating out ‘twerk.’ In a related story, the funeral for the English language is this Saturday!”
I feel like I am losing a very good friend. Our late night and in some cases last minute e-mails and correspondence were always cordial, professional, and perhaps mostly as I recall, personal and friendly. Susan is one of the good eggs. She never cracked under the pressure.
What Susan did most for me, as did so many good to write for editors I have worked with in the past, is to always be able to boost my confidence as a columnist. I often take chances on a humorous concept or broach a very sensitive subject. If ever I had any doubt on a piece, she often became my biggest cheerleader. I do not mean that as sexist, as male cheerleaders are the norm nowadays.
Whenever I had a concern about a column, I would try to submit it several days early. I have always understood that Lindon Dodd’s column is probably the 50th most important thing on an editor’s desk any given week.
I hear many critiques and criticisms of our newspaper. I understand people’s frustration. Some are well-founded. Others are narrow-minded. What I know from being on the inside is how difficult it is to print a daily newspaper. Since 2004 we have lost one-fourth or 2,100 newspapers in this country. The resources are limited, and a newspaper must compete with all things electronic these days.
I believe with all my soul that having a local daily newspaper is a wonderful asset to any community. If you think the News and Tribune has shortcomings, I simply ask you this: Think of Southern Indiana without a local newspaper. Do you think we would be a better community without one?
Small town newspapers are a dying breed across the country. Despite all the struggles, competition, training-ground environment for reporters, and limited and strained resources — our daily newspaper is still thriving where many others have failed. This newspaper is usually the beginning or ending of a journalistic dream and rarely a career job.
Susan Duncan has been more than a worthy caretaker of this most-trusted institution. All editors and publishers bring their own talents, biases, new ideas and personality to a newspaper.
As a contributor she has been one of my career’s blessings. She accepts many criticisms as we discussed this past week. Any fool can criticize. It takes someone with talent, foresight, intelligence and a lot of guts to create a newspaper out of thin air overnight and day after day after day.
Privately I thanked Susan this week and publicly I praise her today. She left her mark. She leaves with her head held high and proud on her own terms, the way we all would wish to exit the stage. Her 60-plus hour weeks are about to come to an end.
Susan Duncan has edited and presided over approximately 265 Lindon Dodd columns. That alone should earn her a very comfortable and happy retirement, if not a guaranteed place in Heaven. And only one rejection.
And some precious grandbabies are about to find out on a way more regular basis just what a truly special person she is.
Congrats, and I will miss you buddy!