The “Rewrite Man,” Someone Reporters Loved To Hate

An Essay by Donal Mahoney

Being a “rewrite man” on a newspaper was a terrific job back in the Sixties if you liked “improving” other people’s work more than writing your own copy.

The rewrite man was like a midwife between the reporter who wrote the first draft and the editor who would say it was ready to be set in type. I don’t know that such a job still exists today. But reporters did not like the rewrite man unless they were phoning in a story and had no way to write it themselves in a world before computers.

No one wants his or her copy changed even it needs surgery desperately. My wife was a reporter but I was always an editor. I never cared what anyone said and I still don’t. I only cared how they said it.

Even an obituary should have a touch of music, a polka for a Pole, a hornpipe for an Irishman.

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