I attended my first American Copy Editors Society conference last week. It was fantastic. I'd missed the chance to go the past few years for various reasons, but I really pushed to get time off to go this time, especially because it was in my hometown, Philadelphia.
I was amazed at how many other people made an effort to attend. The count on the conference website is 328 attendees. That's in an organization that has a membership in the mid-700s, including traditional newspaper copy editors, magazine editors, freelancers, and those who work in the corporate world. I think it's really impressive that half of the membership came, especially since many paid their own way. A show of hands at the opening session showed that about half the people in the room spent their own money to be there.
That kind of commitment was really a big morale booster for me. The past few years have been terrible ones at American newspapers, and the War on Editing, as John McIntyre calls it, has made things especially gloomy on copy desks. It was heartening to be among the survivors, who still care deeply about the importance of copy editing. They care despite the disdain many companies seem to have for the work of adding clarity, accuracy, and credibility to their publications.
It was also great to see old friends, to meet people whom I only knew from their blogs or on Twitter, and to make new friends. I got to share a few of my favorite places in Center City (Philadelphia's downtown) and to discover a new one. (Thanks to Fergie's pub for giving a bunch of us a great place to hang out on Friday night.)
I'm not going to rehash the sessions here. There are some good posts on those on the ACES blog, including one I wrote on Bill Walsh's session, "Rules that Aren't." And I am writing about Rutgers professor Susan Keith's session on "The Future of Editing" for the ACES newsletter. I'll post that here once it is published.
ACES is doing a lot of good by supporting and promoting the work of copy editors. I knew that before the conference, but I really saw what that means there. It means training; it means shoulders to cry on and ears to bitch to; it means awards and scholarships (you can buy a Talk Wordy to Me t-shirt or mug to support that). And it means, most of all, that whether we work at night in mostly empty newsrooms, in offices with civilian hours, or at home as freelancers, we are not alone.