Former Strib editor Tim McGuire comments on the move afoot to reduce copy editing as a cost-saving measure. Although many people think copy editing is a form of proofreading that would prevent the increasing bone-headed errors we see cropping up in daily newspapers, McGuire sets it straight:
Copy editing corrects context errors, provides expertise on local points of history and location and supplies subject matter expertise that often saves a piece of copy. Copy editors also supply a little thing called judgment. Every writer pushes a point too far, uses language that is ill-advised or makes assertions that can’t be supported. A copy editors [sic, was that a test?] job is to catch those.
In addition, he points out that copy editors are in the flow of production in a very particular way. They have an appreciation not just of the story being written but where it fits the paper being made and how it's being read.
I've had the varied experiences of being edited at a newspaper, editing the work of experts and not-so experts, editing other writers, and editing myself — as a blogger and the head of writing company where, if we didn't get the nuances as well as the basics right, we lost clients, which is far more painful and concentration-inducing than losing a subscriber.
[Copy editors are invited to have a go at that paragraph.]
I should add that I've had the experience of editing former newspaper reporters, and I would agree with McGuire: "Reporters and others are simply not prepared for the sophisticated enterprise called copy editing." [h/t to Hal Davis, who must be a hell of an editor]