Deleted Scenes: The Grumpy Editor

Last Friday afternoon, after yet another vigorous round correcting a draft of a review by one of this paper’s interns, former editor Patrick Slevin turned from his seat across the room and asked, “You wanna do a good cop bad cop?”

And it dawned on me: I’m the bad cop.

“Think about it, dude,” he said. “When is the editor ever the good guy?”

He’s right. We went through the Perry Whites and the J. Jonah Jamesons and on and on, and while I’d probably argue that in the case of written works the demonization of the editor is more a result of writers being butthurt at having the lousiness of their own initial drafts shoved in their faces—I’ve been on that end of it as well—I couldn’t deny that where there appeared an editor, there appeared a grumpy, usually abrasive person. A bad cop.

That’s pretty much me.

I don’t know if being bitter makes me better at my job, but it certainly doesn’t make me worse. Between years of turning down PR and record label pitches and reminding kids of the difference between “it’s” and “its” and “your” and “you’re,” “too,” “to” and “two” and where a comma should go around an album title, I spend a decent portion of any given day being that bad cop.

It’s gotten to the point that, when interviewing a prospective new intern this past week, I told said prospective intern that there would be days when she would come into the office and I’d be grumbling, under-caffeinated, and cursing at nothing. Fact is, this is a part of my process. It’s also a speech I’ve given multiple times before. I’m sure if you asked any of the editorial interns currently on staff—Roz, Alessandra, Jakub, Yve, Darryl, Rob—or any who’ve been through the program in the two-plus years that I’ve been back in charge of this department, they will have heard it in one form or another. In addition to being a jerk, I think a good editor should probably also be a creature of habit.

But there’s a part of me that feels like I should resist this idea; like maybe I’m not this malevolent lump of ill-delivered, caustic judgment, just misunderstood, trying to be a good person, to do right, and to put out the best product possible each week. I think what I’ve come to realize is that I can think of myself in that way, maybe even be that person, and also be a total pain in the ass of everyone who has to deal with me. So, you know, whoops.

The issue isn’t that I don’t care about how I’m perceived, either by those interns or anyone else, just that I don’t know of any other way to do what I do and be effective than how I do it. I’m sure I could be a super-nice guy and be crappy at my job, but hell, Spider-Man is a menace. Frankly, I wasn’t hired for my shining personality, and on a professional level, it’s more important to me that the Aquarian gets out each week with the band’s name spelled right on the cover.

It is, right? Let me go double-check.

JJ Koczan