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Richard Lally: OK by DSS!!!

How to Cause DSS to be Conflicted

How to Cause DSS to be Conflicted

In the interest of fairness, felt like we had to point this out.

After our last few posts, we actually had a couple of commenters step in to defend CE Head Honcho Richard Lally and the CE process in general.

If what he says is true, he talks some sense:

Until a few months ago, when I took a full-time job with a newspaper, I freelanced under Lally for four years.

I don’t know how Eve Lederman runs things, but I honestly think you don’t know what Lally does or how he does it.

For as long as I worked with Demand, Lally continually repeated this mantra: “When you reject an article, only the writers stand to lose money on their time investments. So we should do what we can to guide them to approvals.”

He’s written that in hundreds of memos and personal emails to copy editors, and it wasn’t just words. He put it in daily practice. It was Lally who wrote the tips for copy editors that insist on civil exchanges with the writers. CEs who insult writers risk losing their editing privileges.

When CEs have trashed writers in the forums, Lally removed them those platforms. I remember a copy editor who outed several participants in DSS in the Demand forums, and Lally removed the names as soon as he saw them. He told several CEs that outing wasn’t playing fair.

Lally spends a good part of his day helping writers get their articles approved. He has contacted writers who were on the cusp of rejection for some small but important error, and asked them for corrections, which he then would forward to the CE, so the editor could approve the article. He does that continually.

He also tells editors that they shouldn’t reject articles over trivial errors. He wants the CEs to correct those. He does what he can to help writers avoid unnecessary walk. His other mantra: “If it takes more time to compose a note about an error than it does to correct the error, correct the error yourself. 

Fair enough. You can read and respond to the original comment here.

While I was looking for a picture of Richard Lally, I stumbled across the original Demand “Join the Band” video and figure I had to put this back up here again.

I wonder how many of these people are still singing the song?

Richard tells me he’s downloaded a copy of the video just in case it disappears. Maybe we can have some kind of a remix contest?

13 comments to Richard Lally: OK by DSS!!!

  • Evelyn

    If you even have to tell someone

    “If it takes more time to compose a note about an error than it does to correct the error, correct the error yourself.”

    then it’s time to rethink your hiring policies. Not only is that mantra good practice in general, but it also increases a CE’s productivity, allowing him/her to spend less time on a task for which they are not paid by the hour.

  • WriterWeighsIn

    I’ve written articles for Demand for about four years. I’ve had extensive dealings with Lally, and I can support much of what CE Responds writes.

    I know he immediately took down the posts that outed DSSers, and all the replies to that post, because I was the one who ratted out the CE who posted the names.

    The post went up when I was in the forum late on a Wednesday or Thursday night. It was nasty, with about six people outed. I knew Demand was closed, so I sent an email to the Help Desk and Lally. He must have been working late that night, because five minutes later I received an email from him thanking me for alerting him.

    Five minutes after that, the post was gone. Not only that, the CE was a regular in the forums, someone who posted in multiple threads all the time. After that night, I never saw him again. It was like the earth opened up and swallowed him.

    Lally has dealt with me on the Help Desk more than two dozen times, and he’s probably sided with me in about 60% of those. I never detected any bias towards CEs in those dealings.

    Even when he agreed with the CE, he took the time to write a full explanation, and whether he convinced me or not, I have to admit all of his answers were logical and reasonable.

    I don’t think he hangs around the rejection appeal site much, but he did handle four of my appeals over the years. I know that because he’s the only person in the company who has the stones to sign his decisions. He doesn’t go in for any of that Demand Editorial Review Team BS. He overturned two rejections and upheld two, but once again he took the time to explain in detail why he couldn’t reverse the rejections, and I must admit that I couldn’t argue with him about either. His points were that persuasive.

    He won high marks from me with one rejection overturn. When he sent me the notice, he wrote that the CE had conferred with him on the original submission and that he had okayed the rejection, but my appeal had convinced him that he had made the wrong decision. He apologized, thanked me for giving him the chance to correct the error and approved the article.

    He didn’t have to do that. He read the exchange between me and the writer and knew that the writer never mentioned his name. He could have simply approved my appeal, but he stood up and accepted responsibility. That demonstration of integrity counts for a lot with me.

    His Help Desk answers were usually longer than I get from the other people who answer questions because he would tell me, step-by-step, what I had to do to earn an approval.

    I guess I give him the most points for getting my suspended privileges reopened. I had received a notice that my account would be closed for three months for reasons I didn’t think were fair, and I wrote to him for help. He looked into it, made a case on my behalf, and the manager who suspended me let me off with a warning. I also know at least one writer who lost his privileges after being WEPPED and Lally got him reinstated, and I’ve heard other writers talk about how he got their suspensions reduced or lifted.

    I’m sure he’s not perfect, but he’s all right in my book. I think he’s the best thing about Demand.

    • Paging Dandy Don...

      Two simple questions for you:

      A – Do you believe there is a CE bias at Demand?

      B – If so, who (by name) do you believe created and perpetuates this bias among the CEs, Help Desk staffers and leads?

  • Paul Bear

    Btw, as a CE as well, I have never been forwarded these more detailed comments (updates?) about how to treat writers, though, on common sense, I do try to lead them to approval and always correspond with them in a civil manner. Copy editing takes so much time for the $3.50-5.00 pay, however, that I rarely do it unless I know the subject matter inside and out, and unless the article does not look like a total mess.

  • Paul Bear

    I keep encountering a copy editor who throws somewhat insulting comments into his feedback, though occasionally some good stuff too. I recently tried to re-enter the job market working for Demand Media as a science editor and writer. The science writers and editors, incredibly, are paid the same as someone who writes or edits an article about how to pluck your eyebrows. Yet the science articles might involve hours of research, and the editing ($5 per 400+ word article) often require much more extensive fact checking than said eyebrow article or articles on “how to attract a boy” or some such topic. Some of their editors, including the one I mentioned, demand a ridiculous level of expertise and content for the $25 per article you are paid, and after a few rewrites requiring hours of ADDITIONAL research, I am done. Do they have no concept how long it takes to research, write, and cite (and format, and double-check and proofread, for some editors give you bad reviews if you have ANY typos) referenced for content-rich, scientifically accurate articles? They will have trouble getting good, qualified editors and writers at that pay and those demands.

  • Damning with Faint Praise

    Did you come to praise Lally or to bury him? Your first post gets weaker on second read:

    – He “insists on civil exchanges” between co-workers.

    What company doesn’t, and what does it tell you that his CEs thought they could get away with this?

    – “CEs who insult writers RISK losing their editing privileges.”

    They only RISK losing privileges? Sounds like he’s not insisting.

    – “He also tells editors that they shouldn’t reject articles over trivial errors.”

    Why would he have to tell professional editors this, unless they had the impression they could do this (it was obviously going on for him to mandate this)? And it behooves the company to do this from a monetary standpoint – Lally’s not doing writers a favor.

    – He wants CEs to correct trivial errors.

    I can’t believe the NY Times hasn’t hired him already to teach their editors this.

    – He tells professional editors, “correct the error yourself.”

    Um, that’s what editors get paid to do.

    No offense, but praising him for telling his CEs not to insult writers, reject articles for trivial reasons and to actually edit copy rather than send articles back for a rewrite is the same as praising him for not sexually harassing his female coworkers. Yes, he’s a nice guy who does some nice things for writers, but your defense doesn’t contain enough substantive examples of fair play to explain him not having a role in the massive, systemic and sustained CE bias that has resulted in the abuse of writers for years. Who sends writers with four years of service, thousand of articles and ACE quality production a note saying, “You’re terminated – your STYLE doesn’t fit our needs”? That’s it, no more explanation. Who insults long-term writers by putting them into “Writer Development” instead of sending them a note telling them specifically where they are short?

    I admire your desire to give Richard a break and agree that he is not as reflexively unfair as others at DMS, but until you point me to the person or people responsible for the continued CE bias, I have to go where the evidence shows. If he has so much say in protecting writers, why is there such massive bias in favor of CEs? Again, he’s not an evil guy, but he’s certainly not a saint. I haven’t written there for a while; maybe he’s changed since Panda or the mass firings and reboot. But from what I read, it still sucks for writers, primarily because of the continuing CE bias. Do you find any fault with Lally? If so, what specifically?

    • CE Responds

      Damning, you’re actually making my points.

      Read your own comments, and you’re essentially saying, “Lally doing the same things as any good manager.”

      I didn’t say he was a saint. I don’t believe anyone is, and I don’t know him well enough to make that judgment.

      I’m saying he’s a first-rate manager who takes care of writers and CEs alike when they come to him for help.

      BTW, considering all the typos I see in New York Times articles, perhaps they should hire him to make sure the editors catch trivial errors.

      I wrote “risk losing their privileges” because he deals with CE complaints case-by-case. If a CE just puts a small toe over the line and has no previous offenses, he might simply warn the person. If the abuse is flagrant enough, he might close the person’s account with a first offense. Sometimes the penalty is a suspension. The bottom line is he doesn’t tolerate CEs abusing writers or vice-versa. But, for him to act, you must call his attention to the issue. He can’t monitor every article. File a complaint with him, and he’ll act if he finds it has merit.

      He does what he can within the system he’s been given.

      You know, if Lally wasn’t doing the things you mentioned, you’d be all over him for it.

      You say you have to “go to where the evidence shows,” but your last comments demonstrate that you, like many others, have no idea about the scope or limits of his responsibility,so your evidence isn’t evidence at all.

      He did not create the Writer’s Development Program and he doesn’t oversee the process. I know for a fact that he has suggested changes to the process, including giving writers more feedback before they enter the program, but those haven’t been adopted yet. Knowing him, I’m sure he’ll keep pushing on it.

      I also know that writers who have been placed in the program have turned to him for help, and in some cases he was able to get them out of the program or have their privileges reinstated after the program cut them. However, to do that, he had to make the case to someone above him. He can’t wave any magic wands. He doesn’t have that power.

      Finally, he doesn’t work with all of the copy editors, just a large portion of them. So, you have no way of knowing whether his CEs are the better editors at Demand or the worst.

      Perhaps you should send your complaints to him and see how he responds. You might learn something.

      • Paging Dandy Don...

        But yet you can’t seem to pinpoint anyone BY NAME who’s responsible for the protection of incompetent, unqualified and unprofessional CEs. Lally is the main name we hear associated with CEs, but yet he has nothing to do with their rampant unprofessionalism. It’s some “other” people. Yes, Lally makes some cosmetic attempts at improving individual CE behavior, but only after guaranteeing the group immunity from general bad behavior. Suspending a few, individual CEs who blatantly break the rules doesn’t make up for telling the rest they basically have a green light to hoard articles, stalk writers with bad scores and high rewrites rates and issue bogus rewrite requests and rejections that will virtually always be backed by the Help Desk.

        Who is this other person, or these other persons, responsible for the CE bias at Demand? Waiting…

  • Gladys

    I agree that he is the most human out of all of them. He is the most functional person working out of that dysfunctional company.

    Eve, on the other hand, is one crazy bitch.

  • Damning with Faint Praise

    Did you come to praise Lally or to bury him? Your first post gets weaker on second read:

    – He “insists on civil exchanges” between co-workers.

    What company doesn’t, and what does it tell you that his CEs thought they could get away with this?

    – “CEs who insult writers RISK losing their editing privileges.”

    They only RISK losing privileges? Sounds like he’s not insisting.

    – “He also tells editors that they shouldn’t reject articles over trivial errors.”

    Why would he have to tell professional editors this, unless they had the impression they could do this (it was obviously going on for him to mandate this)? And it behooves the company to do this from a monetary standpoint – Lally’s not doing writers a favor.

    – He wants CEs to correct trivial errors.

    I can’t believe the NY Times hasn’t hired him already to teach their editors this.

    – He tells professional editors, “correct the error yourself.”

    Um, that’s what editors get paid to do.

    No offense, but praising him for telling his CEs not to insult writers, reject articles for trivial reasons and to actually edit copy rather than send articles back for a rewrite is the same as praising him for not sexually harassing his female coworkers. Yes, he’s a nice guy who does some nice things for writers, but your defense doesn’t contain enough substantive examples of fair play to explain him not having a role in the massive, systemic and sustained CE bias that has resulted in the abuse of writers for years. Who sends writers with four years of service, thousand of articles and ACE quality production a note saying, “You’re terminated – your STYLE doesn’t fit our needs”? That’s it, no more explanation. Who insults long-term writers by putting them into “Writer Development” instead of sending them a note telling them specifically where they are short?

    I admire your desire to give Richard a break and agree that he is not as reflexively unfair as others at DMS, but until you point me to the person or people responsible for the continued CE bias, I have to go where the evidence shows. If he has so much say in protecting writers, why is there such massive bias in favor of CEs? Again, he’s not an evil guy, but he’s certainly not a saint. I haven’t written there for a while; maybe he’s changed since Panda or the mass firings and reboot. But from what I read, it still sucks for writers, primarily because of the continuing CE bias. Do you find any fault with Lally? If so, what specifically?

  • ArticlesArticlesArticles

    Well, I do remember a time on Demand when just about every rewrite or rejection I received came with a passive-aggressive or outright cruel note attached to it, but that has changed in the past 2 years or so. Maybe that was Lally’s work – if so, he did make working there less stressful.

    I suspect I inadvertently had one of those critical CEs fired. That was still back in the anonymous days, so I wouldn’t know for sure. But I remember getting a rewrite that came back peppered with, “I can’t believe you would think…” “Why on Earth would you…” “Are you kidding me..” I remember gritting my teeth. His big issue? He didn’t like one of my references. So I played nice, changed it. Apparently a day earlier, they had blacklisted one of these references and sent out a memo to CEs about it, but they had not updated their guidelines for writers. The CE’s rejection included, “Nice try, but you still failed.”

    That was one of a few times I ever sent back feedback and I never saw anything like that again. I do hope he was fired. Communication mistakes happen, but I still feel his attitude was so unprofessional and egregious that he deserved a door slammed in his face.

    These days I still only have a problem with one editor. Life got a lot easier when I just started abandoning his rewrites. One of these days, it may backfire on me, but thankfully I run into him a lot less often than I once did. I consider that work collateral damage and decide not to devote anymore when I know I won’t get paid. My rule with that CE is: Rewrite request over 2 or 3 sentences? Don’t bother! That’s code for, “I’m in the mood to reject something.”

    As far as Lally contacting writers about making small revisions? Odd, never heard of that.

    It makes sense, though. Why on Earth would you just allow everyone else to step all over the producers of your content? It’s only going to affect their output, strain the whole process for everyone and likely lead to worse content. People stop writing, they hire new people to fill in, and they have to learn the ropes of writing for a content mill all over again.

    From what I see here, it appears Lally had that idea down. If the change I saw in CEs was his work, I’m grateful. It’s a lot of the other higher-ups that I worry about, honestly.

  • Legacy problem

    I agree that Lally is far better than Lederman, but his individual efforts on behalf of some writers don’t discount the fact that his set-in-stone policies that favor CEs over writers force him to have to intervene. Any professional writer who’s scratched her head over a bizarre Help Desk mandate that supports yet another CE’s rewrite request to mix pills and alcohol can only come to the reasonable conclusion that the HD has been told to back CEs when possible.

    Why can CEs reject an article for reasons not stated in the original rewrite directions and writers get no chance to address the reason? Why is it that when the studio overturns a rejection or unprofessional rewrite request, it won’t change the CE’s incorrect low score? Why is it policy that writers can’t see who edited an article after it’s approved with no rewrite? Why can’t writers see individual article scores? Why are writers told to site specific guidelines when challenging a rejection, but given only 150 words to do so? Why are CEs allowed to hoard articles with no penalty? Why is it policy that writers (not CEs) pick an article’s direction, but CEs are always allowed to send back a rewrite based on title interpretation?

    Guess who?

    CEs terrorize Demand’s good writers on an institutional scale, and Lally oversees the CEs. You can’t dismiss the connection. Yes, Lally feels bad when he sees an individual writer obviously screwed (unlike Eve), but that might be more guilt than righteous defense of writers in general. On a one-on-one basis, Lally’s a very likeable guy (I like him); but his significant role in the editorial department squarely places the blame for the institutionalized writer abuse on him. Lally could change all of the unfair practices above without hurting CEs. Why hasn’t he? Because writers clearly come second at Demand.

    I like you Richard, but it’s time to level the playing field. Please.

    • CE Responds

      Hey Legacy, without realizing it, you just supported the point I made in the other thread. With all respect, you don’t know what Lally does, the scope of his job, or the limits of his authority. All of the issues you’ve raised are based on policies that are established at a higher level than his. He is consulted, but so are other managers. He then has to work with the system that comes out of those discussions. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t see its flaws. He does, which is why he tries to help writers work around them.

      You asked, “Why can CEs reject an article for reasons not stated in the original rewrite directions and writers get no chance to address the reason?”

      I have no idea, but I know that’s not his doing.It may be because the company would have to pay the CE more for the additional rewrite, but that’s only my guess. But, that’s why Lally contacts writers when a CE tells him he’s on the verge of a rejection for something the editor didn’t cite in the first rewrite round. I’ve been involved in two or three of those, all honest mistakes, and I know that manually arranging a second rewrite is one PITA, but he puts in the time because he thinks the writer deserves a fair shake. He can only do this if a CE reports it, since by the time the writer sees it, the rejection becomes an appeal issue.

      However, I know that during those few times he’s been in the appeals queue and seen something like this, he’ll contact the writer, get the correction, insert it into the article and then approve the article. It’s the best he can do.

      You brought up the appeals process, and that’s interesting because the appeal queue was his idea. He thought writers should have a chance to overturn bad decisions. But, you don’t seem to understand the process. The first score I would give to a writer is for the writing and nothing else. So if the writing is clear, fairly free of typos and contains only a grammatical mistake or two, I’d give it a high score. If there are many errors, the score is lower. Whether you win the appeal wouldn’t change that.

      It’s the second score, the content score, when the rejection comes into play. And, if you win, the reviewer CAN CHANGE your score.

      I don’t know why you can’t see individual scores, but CEs can’t see theirs either. It may be because many people are never satisfied with anything less than a 5 and revealing each score would result in hundreds of complaining emails. Anyway, the company doesn’t care about individual scores, since that’s the subjective opinion of one person. It’s your average across a wide body of work that matters.

      When Lally finds CEs hoarding, he warns them, and if the practice continues, he either suspends or removes their copyediting privileges. That was his policy for as long as I worked under him.

      The company gives writers wide latitude on article interpretation, but it’s the CE’s job to ask for a rewrite or an explanation of the interpretation if we feel the interpretation is wrongheaded. There isn’t a reputable publication in the world that doesn’t exercise the same oversight. Someone has to make a call, and since more than 80% of all articles pass through without rewrite requests (I’m pretty sure that percentage is right), this issue can’t be coming up that often.

      If a CE is terrorizing you, send an email to the Help Desk and ask for Lally’s help. If Lally agrees with you, he’ll jump on it. If he doesn’t, I bet he gives you a detailed explanation of his opinion.

      You like Richard? Great. Contact him. Work with him Ask him about the flaws you see. You’ll find him responsive, perhaps even an ally. Then you can like him more.

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