Editorial judgment

Editorial judgment

We put the paper to bed about 7 o’clock last night – that means the stories and art and ads were all laid out on the pages; the front page had art, a headline, the right date and volume number, and refers (i.e., teasers about what’s inside); and all had been electronically sent to the printer.

Then we went home, to eat and sleep, perchance to dream – ay (or maybe oy), there’s the rub, for no sooner had my head hit the pillow, at 11, than I realized that the front-page head was wrong. Well, not exactly wrong, but not exactly right, either.

The cover story was about “the dream team.” We had asked ourselves and some people we knew whom they would nominate for president and vice president if they could choose anyone who ever lived – or who never lived. (We asked readers, too, in an editorial and on this blog, but they were too busy writing diatribes and encomia about the actual candidates to respond.)

Anyway, the front-page head read: Who’s your dream team?

Think about it – “team” is a collective noun; that means it takes a singular verb. So technically, the “Who’s” – a contraction of “who is” – was OK. The singular verb bothered me; our respondents had been asked to make two choices. But “Who are your dream team” would have been clearly wrong.

I figured out what to do, but was not sure the change could be made at that late hour, so I called our production chief, Jerry Szubin, and – after four rings – left him a message.

Poor Jerry – I woke him – called back a few minutes later. I gave him the new headline, but he said it was just too late. We agreed that the existing head was not so terrible, and said goodnight.

An hour later, at 12:09, he phoned again and said that the headline was bothering him as well. He had downloaded the page onto his computer, changed the head, and sent the new page on to the printer.
What was the new headline? Not a big change, but you’ll have to wait till the paper arrives in your mailbox.