Monday, January 18, 2010

What is a Managing Editor?

I've seen a lot of speculation about just what a managing editor is, some of whom attribute all kinds of responsibilities to that title. In truth, however, there is no one job description for a managing editor. I worked for a paper that utilized a a managing editor as a reporter who also helped other reporters with questions. It wasn't a very big elevation of responsibility, but it was useful to have someone to go with questions besides the busy editor.

At another paper, the managing editor served as the editor and handled everything that an editor in chief is supposed to do. The title of editor was given to the paper's owner, though he rarely had anything to do with the actual content and I wonder whether he even read it most days.

While a managing editor is fairly prestigious in that land where there is air and sunlight, I keep finding that managing editors are pretty low-level editors on the Internet. They are often just over-worked editors with little responsibility within the actual publication. Then I came across the term contributing editor at a site that I'm starting with. Maybe it's just me, but that seems a little odd. Either you're an editor or you aren't. If you're a contributor, why are you editing? I thought editors were people who couldn't write and so take out their venom on people who can?

Maybe there's a need for new online titles for editors who also write, editors who actually do have some control over the publication and editors who have a need for an important title to compensate for what is lacking in their lives. How about God-complex editor, editor-not-in-chief-because-the-title-is-meaningless and editor-until-someone-will-pay-me-to-write.


Ann Elle Altman said...

interesting blog post. I'll bet a lot ask that question.


Russell said...

Well, I'm Publishing Editor of and I know someone with Managing Editor as his job title (but I still haven't a clue what he does).


L. Shepherd said...

Publishing editor- I don't know if I've seen that title before. Is that pretty much the same thing as a managing editor? Actually, since there's no real definition, I don't know if it would makes sense to try to compare them.

Isn't Sheffield the place from the Full Monty? Not all of my English geography comes from British movies, but a little dose of it does. ; )

Russell said...

"Publishing Editor" means Publisher and Editor is same person (and writer and photographer in my case ... !).

Yes, Sheffield is "Full Monty" city. Fabulous film. Also check out "Brassed Off" (another "local" film") about the miners' strike in the mid-1980s, told through the eyes of a local brass band (from Grimethorpe, a village just outside Sheffield and near Barnsley) - it stars Ewan McGregor and is based on an absolutely true story. Superb and deeply moving.