In an era when more journalists than ever are self-publishing online, proofreaders in Latin America are banding together to support and defend their profession.
The traditional fine-tuning of copy before publication is under-appreciated in the today's newsrooms, say the proofreaders (known in some regions as copy editors or sub editors).
To combat that, Latin American proofreading organizations met last year in Argentina for the first international congress of Spanish-language proofreaders. This year, they'll meet in Mexico with the aim of promoting these associations of professional nitpickers.
It's a timely initiative: In this era of newsroom cutbacks, proofreaders are often the first jobs cut (link in Spanish). Alicia Zorrilla, president of the Fundación Litterae told IJNet that the solitary nature of the proofreading profession leads to their work being considered a minor contribution.
"So it's time that proofreaders feel supported by an organization that defends their rights and provides feedback on their work performance," she said.
Proofreaders in countries like Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Peru and Uruguay all share similar problems: lack of recognition of the profession, gaps in training and difficulty finding jobs.
"In Mexico, proofreading in newspapers is not widespread," said Jose Antonio Aspiros, journalist, proofreader and a member of the Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales de la Edición. "Some media organizations don't employ proofreaders and there are professionals who think that their work is ready just by running the automatic spell-check program."
Globalization or regionalization? "The biggest challenge for most proofreaders is that some employers do not understand what it means to correct copy," Zorrilla said. "The problem is that many believe the job is limited to removing or adding a comma, or correcting spelling mistakes."
Another challenge for Spanish-language proofreaders, Zorrilla and Aspiros both agreed, is the "globalization" of the language.
Spanish "is globalized to the extent that it’s influenced by other languages, mainly English, often with terms related to new technologies," Aspiros said. "Spanish takes those words, because they are commonly used, but it is the task of those who work with the language to adapt these terms into correct Spanish spelling."
Regional terms or colloquialisms that transcend borders because of the Internet also pose a few interesting questions. For Zorilla, spelling, should be the same globally, but beyond that, "each country has its own local style that must be respected."
At the second international congress, proofreaders will focus on defining common working methods and procedures that can be shared globally.
Photo by Irene Chaparro, CC-licensed on Flickr.