Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: A matter of consistency



Every writer needs an editor. This adage is never more true than working on a newspaper, and the Reporter is about to lose one of the best editors to ever work for the paper.

Archer Brown, retiring this week after 16 years, is listed on the masthead as “Reporter/Proofreader,” the former for her work covering the Village of Dering Harbor and the many pieces she’s written over the years, especially when she was community news editor.

From that chair, she consistently turned out a spark­ling Around the Island section of the paper. She kept the community up-to-date and informed on what was happening, bringing an entertaining review of the cultural goings-on of the Island every week to Reporter readers.

As for the second title in her double-barreled masthead description: A proofreader examines every headline, subheadline, caption and sentence in the newspaper. The proofer flags down misspellings, twisted grammar and layout confusion.

But Archer also turned the clumsy phrase graceful, the vague explanation concrete, the confused transition clear and doomed the repetitious paragraph to a well-deserved death.

Another invaluable tool a proofer wields is a sense of consistency, to make the paper uniform in everything from the usage of weights and measures to italicizing the names of boats to everything in between. On this score, Archer once quoted to a new editor Emerson’s statement that, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” before she added, “But we look like idiots if we’re not consistent.”

The rookie got the message immediately, thanks to his colleague’s gentle warning and wit.

Archer was at the center of every Reporter staff she was a part of, as Joanne Sherman’s loving tribute on the next page attests. It’s telling that people who have worked with her for only a short time never forget her. In 2002, Times Review started up a new paper, the North Shore Sun, and while preparations were being made for the launch, Sun staffers filled in at the Reporter. Greg Zeller, the first editor of the Sun, came over that summer just for a few weeks, but even now, 13 years later, always asks to be remembered to Archer.

Another Sun staffer returned to the Reporter for a full-time job three years ago and counts himself more than fortunate to have been blessed to work with Archer week in and week out.

Much is made of likening businesses to families; unfortunately, most of the time, this is just management school happy talk. At the Reporter we’re a good team, but also a family in one important aspect. Every family has a member who embodies the heart, soul and spirit of the unit. Archer has brought — consistently — those three invaluable qualities to our paper.