Leadership advice

You’re an “Instant Editor” – what now?

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

In crisis coverage, we learn to wear new hats. Beats are shifting, roles are changing – all to meet the needs of the day. 

What if you’ve been asked to edit, and you’ve never been an editor before?

Trust your journalistic chops and Spidey-sense. If you know what makes a good story and have a strong ethical core, you’re already well armed.

To smooth the process for everyone, have a fast conversation with your reporters about these things: 

  • Their usual work process. Don’t assume their research, organization, writing and reviewing process is just like yours.
  • Their COVID-19 adaptive work process. What have they had to do differently these days. For example, are they sharing a home computer with a middle-schooler during certain hours? How will you work around any obstacles they’re facing, or better yet, help remove them?
  • Who’s the best editor they ever worked with and what did they do differently? This is a gold mine of information.
  • What you need as their editor, how you like to work and what successful writer/editor collaboration looks like to you.
  • Be sure to tell each other: “What’s the best way to communicate with you — and when?”
  • What’s negotiable and what’s not. (Deadlines, style, attribution, linking, corrections, ethics calls, etc.)
  • How to stay in touch and stay healthy.

Finally, remember a mantra I learned from the late editor and writing coach Foster Davis

Tie goes to the writer.

Have questions? Ask away.


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