editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Ode to an Assistant Editor

January 25th, 2008 · No Comments

While last week, I focused on tips and suggestions for reporters, this week my emphasis has been on assistant editors. And I hope that you’ve found my suggestions — personal chat rooms, online tools, postmortems, Google Groups and Ning — relevant and useful.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some great assistant editors; they’ve been writers and poets, comedians and musicians, environmentalists and artists. And while I don’t think any of them dreamt of one day being an assistant editor, they gave the position their best and in most cases, had a lasting impact if not on the reporters they worked with then, on me.

As I previously wrote, I believe that assistant editors are the unsung heroes of the newsroom and that starts with how they got the job. In many cases, they were hardworking reporters who one day were told “you’re an editor now,” and without any fanfare and even less training, they’re thrust into this new position. Suddenly, they find themselves managing their former peers, working an ungodly schedule and following instructions that would leave anyone shaking their heads.

See, I believe that most assistant editors are smarter then they get credit for. Actually, I believe that most are even smarter then the executive editors they work for. But that typically isn’t taken into consideration in an environment where the assistant editor is seen as the “grunt” of their desk, expected to silently do as they’re told.

The truth is that assistant editors typically have their finger on the pulse of the newsroom. They know when the reporting staff is aggravated or depressed. They know when a project is going off the rails long before the metro or features editor gets around to paying attention. And they know how readers are going to react (or not react) to changes in say, the TV book.

If it was up to me, assistant editors would be rewarded appropriately and given the training and tools worthy of their roles and positions. But, we know where you can find that storyline. So, I believe, that these editors need take control of their own careers. Here’s what you can do if you find yourself in this position:

  • Go online and seek out your own low-cost or free training.
  • Advocate to be sent to programs like Poynter’s Leadership Academy by highlighting the ROI for your newspaper.
  • Discover, use and share new tools and techniques.
  • Reach out and connect with colleagues at other papers; even if you compete, you’re all in the same boat.
  • When the fun stops, take stock and figure out why and what you can do.

Those are a few ideas, I’m sure as the life of this blog progresses I’ll have more, so check back. But the most important thing that I think I can say to you, that maybe you don’t hear often enough is — thank you — thanks for all that you do, thanks for keep our newspapers going.

Tags: Best Practices · Editors · Innovation · Leadership · Tools · Training

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