Bad Editor

A few weeks ago I wrote a review on www.nouse.co.uk.

When I reread it today the first paragraph seemed unfamiliar.

I checked my computer to verify whether it had been re-edited.

Sure enough, this:

Nouse typically reviews plays on a scale of three to four stars. Four stars either means the show is good or a student journalist is trying out a particularly enthusiastic style of writing. The Knight of the Burning Pestle gets three stars because it is good enough. It is a silly, shallow comedy executed very well and the result is a slightly better than average barn show.”

Had been changed into this:

The Knight of the Burning Pestle crafts a good play out of a bad one. Mungo Tatton-Brown reviews

The Knight of the Burning Pestle takes three stars. It is ‘good enough’. It is silly, it is shallow, but it is a well-executed comedy that entertains, even if it doesn’t set the Barn alight.”

There are at least three problems with this. First of all, I was never informed that the content of my article had been edited. Secondly, the paragraph has been rewritten in a way which suggests I was less favourable to the play than I was. Third, the opening paragraph is now both less interesting and less informative.

When a student submits an article to a student newspaper, it does not become the property of the editor. Unless the article is especially inflammatory, the content is not the editor’s responsibility. The writer will be judged on what they have written, not the editor. Formatting corrections and corrections to spelling or grammar where the writer’s intended meaning is clear are appropriate. But in this case, the paragraph that is now on the Nouse website is not the one I wrote. When that paragraph is presented as the one I wrote that is dishonest, especially when I am not informed.

At no point in my article did I say that The Knight of The Burning Pestle was a “bad one”. It is unnecessary to introduce a review which already has an introductory paragraph, especially with a tag line with such ambiguous meaning as “The Knight of the Burning Pestle crafts a good play out of a bad one.” – Was it the direction that improved the play? The performance? Was it a successful rewrite of an inferior work? I don’t know and I’m supposed to have been the reviewer.

The opening lines of the original review introduce it with a light-hearted tone. It suggests an awareness that student reviewers are not always highly respected by their readers. Ironically, removing these lines suggests they are not always respected by editors either.

Changing “The Knight of the Burning Pestle gets three stars because it is good enough.” to “It is ‘good enough’.” Changes the meaning of the sentence. The quotation marks indicate that I’m either quoting someone that is not mentioned, which is both vague and false, or that I am being sarcastic, which is also false. The same cheap effect could be made by writing that this review was altered by an editor of the Nouse ‘newspaper’.

The final line has a completely different meaning in the edited version. “a slightly better than average barn show” is informative – the reader knows exactly what quality to expect. “…entertains, even if it doesn’t set the Barn alight” only tells the reader that it was not amazing. It could have been anything from good to terrible according to that sentence.

I don’t talk or write in vague idioms. “it doesn’t set the barn alight” is a phrase I would never use unless I was trying and failing to commit arson.

The edited review can be found here:

http://www.nouse.co.uk/2013/05/18/review-the-knight-of-the-burning-pestle/

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