Chapter 1

Becoming an editor

I note what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine. I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me after you get to Hell and learn from other editors how dreadful their job was on earth.

(H.L. Mencken to William Saroyan, 1936)

The American humourist's jaundiced account of the pleasures of editing will strike a chord with some readers. But it is only part of the picture. Many journalists take becoming an editor as the pinnacle of their career, the summit of their ambitions. The irony is, however, that editing is not solely about journalism. Journalism is simply the skill that gets you the job. Once installed in the editor's chair, other tasks take over. Editors need to learn a publishing role, a managerial role and a leadership role.

In practice, if someone offers you the chance to become editor you do not normally refuse. It may be years before you get such an offer again; moreover, your chances of continuing peacefully in your own existing position after refusing such an offer are not high. Managements mistrust people who turn down promotions, suspecting them of lack of commitment, laziness or ulterior motives. New editors mistrust potential editors among their own staff, though those who refuse the offer are less troubling than those who have applied only to be rejected. But the consequences of refusal can be high.

The time to consider your own readiness for the task is before it becomes a realistic prospect. That way you will have time to prepare yourself and consider your own skills and attributes. You may, indeed, realise that your strengths lie elsewhere. There is no shame in wanting to carry on writing and reporting. One of the problems of journalism is that successful and skilful writers and reporters can only gain advancement by moving to supervisory roles where their talents are lost to the readers.

As your career develops, you must assess your own ambitions and abilities. Then, when new prospects are held out to you, you can assess the job that is being offered. Only when the two aspects make a good match will you have found a niche in which you are likely to succeed.

-4-

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Magazine Editing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Becoming an Editor 4
  • Chapter 2 - The Editor and the Reader 26
  • Chapters 3 - The Editor and the Team 52
  • Chapter 4 - The Editor and Money 84
  • Chapter 5 - Content 1 99
  • Chapter 6 - Content 2 127
  • Chapter 7 - The Editor and the Visual 147
  • Chapter 8 - The Editor and Production 179
  • Chapter 9 - The Editor and Technology 194
  • Chapter 10 - The Editor and the Public 208
  • Chapter 11 - The Magazine Business 228
  • Appendix 1 254
  • Appendix 2 - Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice 256
  • Glossary 260
  • Index 271
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