Why so few copy editors have joined ACES

American Copy Editor Society head honcho John McIntyre posted the following at the ACES discussion board the other day:

According to the latest numbers from ASNE’s survey of newsrooms, there are 10,708 copy editors/layout persons working for America’s daily
newspapers. So how come 10,000 of them are not members of ACES?

I could do a wise-ass Top 10 list of 10 things ACES could do to attract more members (“No. 7: Raffle off the right to flambe a photographer!”) but I’m feeling sober and serious all the sudden, so I’ll just play it straight and offer a few observations.

1) Gimme an incentive: For the longest time I didn’t feel like signing up because I didn’t think ACES had much to offer beyond the chance to get together with a few hundred other copy editors once a year. I’m thinking, geeze, I spend a third of my life w/these folks already — of course I adore them like family but still, I need really good reasons to take time away from my real family.

2) You built it, they ain’t comin’. Why? I wonder if it’s because somebody needs to make it easier for them. Somebody like the top newsroom executives who, to date, are clearly not offering strong incentives for joining ACES. Are they being properly cajoled and encouraged?

3) ACES is not cool. ACES isn’t jazz or rock ‘n’ roll to me. It’s easy listening. The outfit needs some verve; some inside skinny; some, dare I say, edge. I’m not talking cool for cool’s sake: I’m talking about reaching out to the young copy editors who have the most gruelling duty at the most godawful rags none of us high achievers would ever deign to work for. They need ACES more than just about anybody, but they’re the next galaxy over from the ACES’ elite, which draws almost entirely from major metro dailies.

4) It all comes down to money: Not the membership fee, which is a pittance. I’m talking about how newspapers get away with defying the most basic tenet of economics: if there is such a crying demand for copy editors, why isn’t it reflected in their paychecks? If ACES could demonstrate any kind of success at addressing copy editor pay, it would go a long way towards answering “what’s in it for me?”

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