The Jilted Copy Desk


I thought we had something special, but it turns out she never really loved me at all.

And now she's picked you, Super-editor. You really think you'll be able to satisfy her, trying to do the job of every kind of editor yourself? Oh, I know how special it makes you feel, to bask in the glow of a million smartphones. But how will it feel when they're glowing with corrections she blames on you?

No, I get it. She's still got something that turns heads, that old gray lady. I don't blame you.

So well versed in etiquette. Fastidious and precise.

People everywhere step out their front doors and bow down to greet her. When her minions enter a room, peers can't help but wonder: What is it like to be with her? And she still has the charm and the power to make celebrities swoon, moguls tremble, and presidents tweet.

But something has been lost, too.

That self-assured elegance that propelled her above the crowd, and that some took as arrogance. Well, maybe there was some arrogance in it. But if so, it was an earned arrogance.

Now with every new technological bauble she must have, with every new tweetstorm she chases, with every sad effort to remake herself in the image of the latest "it" girl, she betrays a shaken confidence.

What happened?

I can't help remembering the humiliation of that night. She had told the dominion it wouldn't even be close: The woman with the big sword would slay the dragon handily, and a celebration would ensue.

Instead the dragon saw the sword tilt and a petard presented, and soon the swordstress was hoisted by it. Then he defecated in the punch bowl.

The fire-breather was crowned, and old gray went ashen in disbelief. When she collected herself, she declared, impressively if improbably, it would prove to be her finest hour, meanwhile ignoring the devotees chasing after her, in unison crying: "But you said ..."

Inside her fortress, her colossal misjudgment was never spoken of. And that gave her own allies pause.

For just 14 years earlier, after the exposure of one of her hands as a fabulist sullying her good name, there was relentless self-examination and contrition. It resulted in a commitment to self-correction via the establishment of a court jester to tell her harsh truths few others would dare, and to warn the old girl against her own worst tendencies.

After the debacle of last fall, her response was quite the opposite: She would acknowledge no error; just elevate her nose and puff out her chest. And the clincher: The jester would be hanged.

Maybe it's the relentless taunting of the dragon-king and his reptilian followers.

Or maybe it's encroaching obsolescence.

Or perhaps it's so many mornings awaking to the cry, "The Post is reporting WHAT?!" 

It takes a toll. Death by a thousand scoops.

She never used to have any shame in her age; she wore her laugh lines well and was always exquisitely coiffed. 

But now she's trying out a new lipstick each week, and rushing to every inane trend in ways she once might have found unseemly. Today she's doing a Facebook Live from the Fidget Spinners Convention. Yesterday it was a 360-degree video of a Pokémon Go hunt (sponsored by Samsung).

She's even been seen on Snapchat.

And the latest desperate move to run with a younger crowd: She's having a few layers removed.

I, for one, never saw her as plump; just healthy. Now she's going for lean, but it comes with risk. Doesn't she know those layers are there to protect her?

Next thing you know our dusty dame will be dyed platinum.

And you, Super-editor. What makes you think you can do everything you used to to do, and everything I used to do, plus what photo editors used to do, and do it all faster and better and more visually?

Oh, you don't think that? What? It was all her idea?

Ah. Good luck with that.

I'm saddened, but nonetheless wish her well. After all, I could never quit her entirely, not in the age of the dragon. Still recommended at the price.

But a word to the wise: Watch your back — she's not as loyal as she used to be.

Now excuse me while I go cease to exist.


The writer is a proud NewsGuild of New York member and an employee of the New York Times copy desk, which is being eliminated.

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