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What’s it like to write for the New York Times

Neil Strauss vs. the New York Times copy editor.

Editing an article that quotes the Courtney Love lyric, “I’m eating you / I’m overfed” . . .

COPYEDITOR: We have to remove that quote.

What’s wrong with it?

COPYEDITOR: It’s about oral sex.

The whole article hinges on that lyric.

COPYEDITOR: If you want, I can run it past the news desk and see what they say.

Ten minutes later . . .

COPYEDITOR: The news desk says it’s about oral sex.

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Editing a concert review in which singer Francis Dunnery describes himself as “complete scumbag white trash from the north of England” . . .

COPYEDITOR: We can’t use the word “scumbag.”

Why is that?

COPYEDITOR: Because it refers to a condom.

What’s wrong with condoms?

COPYEDITOR: It’s a family newspaper. You and I might like to talk about scumbags, but that’s on our own time.

Then there is this.

Editing an article in which country singer Steve Wariner recalls Garth Brooks signing autographs for “twenty-four hours straight without a pee break”…

COPYEDITOR: We’re going to have to send that to the news desk.

Because of the word “pee”?

COPYEDITOR: Yes, it’s scatological.

Ten minutes later . . .

COPYEDITOR: What do you want to say instead?

You mean the word pee is unacceptable?

COPYEDITOR: Let’s not argue about it.

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