While studying for the exams I have been thinking about meaning and intention, especially in the case of James Frey and the business letter we analyzed in class. In A Million Little Pieces James Frey intentionally misleads his readers, whereas in the business letter the author is unable to clearly convey his message at all.
I felt that the biographical note we edited was a whole different animal, though. I can see why it is a publisher's nightmare; I am still troubled by it myself. To me, a piece like this walks a fine line between editing and writing. I didn't feel that way about the business letter because all the ideas were on paper, just not in an ideal arrangement. And in the business letter the content was not factual. Working with the biographical note, I really felt strained trying to achieve meaning from its content.
For example, the my first draft of the first sentence read "Scott Nearing taught economics for ten years at the University of Pennsylvania, but after leading a public fight against child labor, he was dismissed from his teaching post." I then changed the sentence to "Scott Nearing taught economics for ten years at the University of Pennsylvania, but after a public fight against child labor, he was dismissed from his teaching post." The revision seemed safer to me, because the original did not state that Scott Nearing led the fight.
I felt that editing the business letter, though certainly a formidable task, was still editing, but in the case of the biographical note the information is so unclear that it borders being inaccurate, and if I have to read a biography of Scott Nearing to edit the biographical note, can I still just call it editing?
I suppose some editing jobs are just tougher than others. I know that studying editing has really helped me to improve my writing!