Ode to a Copy Editor

christine-5-13As I’ve boasted about many times, dsm is created by a cadre of talented writers, photographers, designers and others who pour their talents, and their hearts, into their work. But there’s one person who plays a vital role on the editorial team yet remains resolutely behind the scenes: Steve McIntire

Steve, or Mac as he’s called around here, is dsm’s copy editor. He’s been a fixture at Business Publications Corp. Inc. since Connie Wimer founded the company in 1981. In fact, you could argue that he actually preceded Connie, as he worked at the newspaper Connie bought that evolved into the Business Record.

Copy editing positions are being sliced at publications throughout the print industry (and the results of those cuts are clearly evident, in my view). Copy editors are the smart, often cantankerous and always indispensible language, punctuation and style wizards who rail against misplaced modifiers, know the difference between the imperative and indicative mood and understand when to use “continually” vs. “continuously.” Along with an irreverent sense of humor, they also tend to have a storehouse of facts packed in their brains—ranging from the important (the names of all the current Cabinet members) to the trivial (the title of Katy Perry’s latest album).

And Mac is one of the best copy editors our city has ever had. Years ago when I was a reporter at The Des Moines Register, I was privileged to work with the great Charlie Nettles and the legendary Jimmy Larson (back then, the Register still had a fully staffed copy desk). Mac could challenge even them.

In addition to being a grammar, punctuation and Associated Press style genius, Mac helps keep the facts in our stories razor-sharp, even if they seem innocuous. For example, in one of this issue’s stories, a book was described as a “New York Times best-seller,” which Mac changed to “best-selling novel” because, he contended, “ ‘New York Times best-seller’ is not a proper description; the Times didn’t write or publish the book. What is meant is that the book appeared on the Times’ best-sellers list, which is lengthy to state properly. And why should this list have priority over the myriad other best-seller lists out there?”

As a lifelong Des Moines resident, except for his college days, Mac also has an extensive working knowledge of the city’s history—and the people, companies and organizations that occupy it. When a story hit his desk containing the word “ordinance” instead of the intended “ordnance,” Steve didn’t just fix the typo, he let me know that “that’s why the street in Ankeny is Ordnance Road; there used to be a munitions plant up there. After World War II, Deere & Co. bought the land, which became the site of the John Deere Des Moines Works.”

Steve’s capacious knowledge doesn’t end at Greater Des Moines’ borders but encompasses movies, music, television and other forms of pop culture. Nearly anything in any story can make Steve think of something else. Usually, I have to Google the clues he drops, which in this issue included, among others, “Book ’em, Danno” (“Hawaii Five-O”), Daisy May Moses (Granny in “The Beverly Hillbillies”) and “Party Poop” (Spy magazine). Occasionally, he’ll challenge the entire staff: “She’s not dead; she’s just pining for the fjords,” he wrote in one message, promising “bonus points” to those of us who understood the reference without doing a Web search. (Given I’m a Monty Python fan, I don’t like admitting that I had to Google it.)

Once I finish writing this column, I’ll send it to Steve to proof. I’ve no doubt he’ll catch something that would have embarrassed me had it found its way into print. He’ll fix it, and make me look good. Thanks, Mac.

  • Show Comments (1)

  • Randy Witke

    Good work, Christine. Good work Steve McIntire.

Comments are closed.

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