Darkness at Dawn

The New York Observer this week ran a major cover story on l'affaire Eden, the firing of headline gal and copyeditor Dawn Eden by the New York Post for her pro-life edits of a piece on in-vitro fertilization. The Post brass do not come out terribly well in this story. I mean when this -- "Some people already think the Post is conservative, and we don't need New York readers also thinking it's a Christian paper and that there are Christians working there" -- is a quote from a sympathetic voice at the Post, well, you just know we're in for the management-as-weasels treatment.

Eden explains why she made the edits to the story about women diagnosed with terminal cancer who turn to IVF to have babies:

"I got choked up," Ms. Eden said. "How are people going to ever understand the complex issues involved here, if the story they're reading reduces it to 'Oh, isn't this nice? We can just make lots of embryos and not worry about whether they live or die.'"

So she changed things. To the sentence "Experts have ethical qualms about this 'Russian roulette' path to parenthood," Eden added, "which, when in-vitro fertilization is involved, routinely results in the destruction of embryos." Where the author had written about the implantation of three embryos in which "two took," Eden amended to, "One died. Two took."

At the time, the Observer reports, Eden thought "she was performing a service for the reader, since she believed that the Post had been 'notoriously oblivious' to the nuances involving embryonic life." Since the incident, she has decided that "my first loyalty should have been to my employer."

The author of the Post article in question, Susan Edelman, reportedly responded to Eden's apology thus: "Dawn You are the most unprofessional journalist I have ever encountered in all my years in this business. A disgrace. Sue Edelman."

On her own website, Eden maintains that she did not work her own pro-life views into the article she edited: "To say that I was working my own views into the piece implies that the information I added was untrue." I know what she's getting at, but, given the thrust of the whole profile, I don't think that's the conclusion readers would be inclined to draw.

I would get into my own fun-with-copyeditors experiences here, but Mattingly has promised to do so later in the day. So I'll hold a few stories for the comments threads.

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