A Look at What Different Editors Do in the Newsroom

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Just as the military has a chain of command, newspapers have a hierarchy of editors responsible for various aspects of the operation.

What Editors Do

Tony Rogers

This graphic shows a typical newsroom hierarchy.

The Publisher

The publisher is the top boss, the person overseeing all aspects of the paper on both the editorial (news) side, as well as the business side. However, depending on the size of the paper, he or she might have little involvement in the day-to-day operations of the newsroom.

The Editor-in-Chief

The editor-in-chief is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the news operation. This includes the content of the paper , the play of stories on the front page, staffing, hiring, and budgets. The editor's involvement with the day-to-day running of the newsroom varies with the size of the paper. On small papers, the editor is very involved; on big papers, slightly less so.

Managing Editor

The managing editor is the one who directly oversees day-to-day operations of the newsroom. More than anyone else, perhaps, the managing editor is the one responsible for getting the paper out every day. The managing editor is also responsible for ensuring the paper's content is the best it can be, and that it meets that paper's standards of journalism. Depending on the size of the paper, the managing editor might have a number of assistant managing editors. These assistants are responsible for specific sections of the paper, such as local news, sports , features, national news, and business, along with the presentation of the articles, which includes copy editing and design.

Assignment Editors

Assignment editors are those directly responsible for the content in a specific section of the paper, such as local, business, sports, features, or national coverage. They are the editors who deal directly with reporters. They assign stories, work with reporters on their coverage, suggest angles and ledes , and do the initial editing of reporters' stories.

Copy Editors

Copy editors typically get reporters' stories after they have been given an initial edit by assignment editors. They edit stories with a focus on the writing, looking at grammar, spelling, flow, transitions, and style. They also make sure the lede is supported by the rest of the story and the angle makes sense.  Copy editors also write headlines, secondary headlines (decks), captions, called cutlines, and takeout quotes. This is collectively called display type. They also work with designers on the presentation of the story, especially on major stories and projects. At larger papers, copy editors often work only in specific sections and develop expertise on that content.

Assignment Editors and Macro Editing

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Assignment editors do what is called macro editing. This means that as they edit, they tend to focus on the "big picture" aspect of the story.

Here is a checklist of things assignment editors look for when they are editing:

  • The lede: Does it make sense, is it supported by the rest of the story, is it in the first paragraph or is it buried?
  • The story: Is it thorough and complete? Are there any unanswered questions? Is it fair, balanced and objective?
  • Libel : Are there any statements that might be considered libelous?
  • Writing: Is the story well-written ? Is it clear and understandable?
  • Accuracy: Did the reporter double-check all names, titles and places mentioned in this story? Did the reporter properly check all phone numbers or web addresses?
  • Quotes: Are the quotes accurate and properly attributed?
  • Relevance: Are the story's background and context complete enough to tell readers why the story is relevant?

Copy Editors and Micro Editing

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Copy editors tend to do what is called micro-editing. This means that as they edit, they to focus on more technical writing aspects of stories, such as Associated Press style, grammar, spelling, accuracy, and general readability. They also act as a backup for assignment editors on such things as the quality and support of the lede, libel, and relevance. Assignment editors also might correct such things as AP style errors or grammar. After copy editors do the fine-tuning on a story, they might take questions to the assigning editor or reporter if there is an issue with the content. After the copy editor is satisfied the story meets all standards, the editor writes a headline and any other display type that is required.

Here is a checklist of things copy editors look for when they are editing:

  • Does the story follow AP style and any exceptions to that style, called house style?
  • Are grammar and punctuation correct?
  • Are there any misspelled words?
  • Are names spelled correctly?
  • Are quotes attributed correctly?
  • Is the lede supported?
  • Is the story objective, clear, and easy to understand?
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Newspaper Editors

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Newspaper Editors

Introduction

Newspaper editors assign, review, edit, rewrite, and lay out all copy in a newspaper except advertisements. Editors sometimes write stories or editorials that offer opinions on issues. They review the editorial page and copy written by staff or syndicated columnists. A large metropolitan daily newspaper staff may include various editors who process thousands of words into print daily. A small town staff of a weekly newspaper, however, may include only one editor, who might be both owner and star reporter. Large metropolitan areas, s...

Quick Facts

Median Salary

Employment Prospects

Minimum Education Level

Personality Traits

Salaries for newspaper editors vary from small to large communities, but editors generally are well compensated. Other factors affecting compensation include quality of education and previous experience, job level, and the newspaper's circulation. Large metropolitan dailies offer higher-paying jobs, while outlying weekly papers pay less.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the med...

Work Environment

The environments in which editors work vary widely. For the most part, publishers of all kinds realize that a quiet atmosphere is conducive to work that requires tremendous concentration. It takes an unusual ability to edit in a noisy place. Most editors work in private offices or cubicles. Even in relatively quiet surroundings, however, editors often have many distractions. In many cases, edit...

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for editors and writers is highly competitive, with employment projected to decline 3 percent through 2028. Opportunities will be better on small daily and weekly newspapers, where the pay is lower. Online publications are also expected to offer more opportunities for editors and writers. Also, some publications hire freelance editors to sup...

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The American Society of News Editors focuses on leadership development and journalism-related issues. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism, defends and protects First Amendment rights, and fights for freedom of information and open government. Leadership, innovation, diversity and inclusion in coverage and the journalism work force, opinion journalism, news literacy and the sharing of ideas are also key ASNE initiatives.

Members can be editors, producers or directors in charge of journalistic organizations or departments; opinion journalists; deans or faculty at university journalism schools; leaders and faculty of media-related foundations and training organizations and other individuals at the board's discretion. A committee of the board of directors reviews applications for membership.

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The organization was known as the American Society of Newspaper Editors until 2009.

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COMMENTS

  1. A Look at What Different Editors Do in the Newsroom

    The editor-in-chief is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the news operation. This includes the content of the paper, the play of stories on the front page, staffing, hiring, and budgets. The editor's involvement with the day-to-day running of the newsroom varies with the size of the paper.

  2. How To Become a News Editor (With Salary and Skills)

    Here are the general steps to become a news editor: 1. Earn a bachelor's degree. As an aspiring editor, it's important to earn a formal education in a relevant field. Pursue a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or English to best prepare for your future career.

  3. What are the Duties of a Newspaper Editor?

    What Is a Newspaper Editor? Newspaper editors review and modify the content provided by writers and other contributors. They will verify facts, ensure readability and understanding of the content for the reader and check for grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

  4. Career Explainer: What Does an Editor Do?

    Newspaper editing. Newspaper editors work for print and online news publications, shaping coverage and editing stories filed by reporters and writers. These editors often work for a certain section or on a particular “beat”—for example, culture, politics, or sports.

  5. Newspaper editors

    Introduction. Newspaper editors assign, review, edit, rewrite, and lay out all copy in a newspaper except advertisements. Editors sometimes write stories or editorials that offer opinions on issues. They review the editorial page and copy written by staff or syndicated columnists. A large metropolitan daily newspaper staff may include various ...

  6. What Is a Newspaper Editor and How to Become One

    How to Become a Newspaper Editor. A newspaper editor is responsible for choosing which stories to publish and that all articles that are meet the newspaper’s guidelines. Career qualifications include a bachelor’s or master’s degree in English, journalism, or a related field.

  7. About ASNE

    The American Society of News Editors focuses on leadership development and journalism-related issues. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism, defends and protects First Amendment rights, and fights for freedom of information and open government.