Thursday, 28 June 2012

What does an editor do? ...

...It's not an 'Answers on a Postcard, Please' moment, or a rhetorical question (although I guess it's one many working in the news industry have asked, in varying tones of frustration, at one time or another). 

For the purposes of this blog post, however, it is part of my MA dissertation I'm tackling on the Journalism Leaders course at UCLan
When I embarked on the hunt for a topic which merited 20,000 words of my deathless prose I was interested in editorial responsibilities in terms of entrepreneurship, and innovation and change management

Then, after it was gently pointed out that the dissertation deadline was September 2012, not - as my broad field of interest would have required - before the eventual collapse of the universe, I had to refine the topic. 
It came down to this: What do editors do? What will they be required to do in the face of industry disruption, and what can the role become? 

I'm not looking at broadcast media challenges and I'm mainly focused on the UKas the role seems to have different scopes and definitions in some other countries.
Also, it was partly fueled by the UK responses to the World News Future & Change Study (2010), where publishing executives discussed their strategic and operational goals and challenges for the immediate future.
Globally, responses post to the open-ended question: “What is the single most important change that has to be implemented in your newspaper over the next year?” included

  •    Content/journalism
  •    Leadership/management/strategy
  •    Convergence
  •    Internet/technologies
  •    Culture change

Internationally, there was a strong feeling existing leaders were unprepared for these next steps, but it was the UK respondents who saw leadership training/development as the logical solution.
So I'm approaching the issue from the point of view that if there is a stated strategic goal for change, and an understanding that editorial leaders need development to meet that goal, what competencies does an editor require now, and in the coming years?

It means I need editors to say, anonymously if they wish, what their present role entails, what their average day comprises, what areas they feel they need more development in, and what challenges they are facing. 
I'm running a questionnaire on SurveyMonkey which, by the way, is a great sampling tool and gives you up to 10 questions free. I chose the market research template, and my questions are a mix of multiple choice, rating, ranking, comment and text. 
You can find the survey here and if you're able to assist me by taking the survey, or pinging it around the interwebs to reach as many media executives as possible, you'll have my deepest gratitude. (And huge thanks to Hold The Front Page and the Society of Editors for kind assistance in highlighting it.)

Now I've got the topic sorted and am researching things, I'm nose-deep in interesting journals and papers  (there are a lot of interesting papers and journals out there - it's daunting how many, to be honest). 
I've created a Delicious Stack of some of the readings I've found interesting. It's the first time I've really found a Stack worthwhile and it may even lure me back to start using Delicious again more often.

Photo credit -  the Cheezburger faries, of course.Where else are you going to get teh cute kitteh on keyboard photo from? 
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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Changing times: Making a 1940s newspaper (video)

I've been involved in lots of meetings and discussions about the future of local newspaper journalism recently, but when you're gazing ahead, sometimes it's nice to be reminded of where everything came from.
I saved this video so long ago on YouTube I can't credit whoever pointed me in at it, but it's originally from and is part of the Prelinger Archives.

And it's a fascinating insight into another world (although it depicts a seriously male-dominated industry). Who couldn't fail to be charmed by a narrator who tells his audience: "'This reporter is in a hurry. He is GOING TO COVER A FIRE. Covering a fire is usually an exciting event" while the film cuts from a reporter hurrying away from his editor to a burning building.

Or "The editorial writer must be able to write on many subjects, but instead of merely reporting the news he analyses it and explains its meaning" all accompanied by an earnest editorial writer poring over the paper and stroking his chin before pounding his thoughts out on the old Imperial alongside him.

And, finally, "The country editor, unlike the city editor, must spread his attention over all aspects of the business. He must go out after local news himself, and from local merchants solicit the advertising... he must then write the advertising and the news and plan the layout of each issue".
The segment ends with the tireless country editor printing out his paper by hand; I wonder what he would make of the unmanned robots trundling around, doing jobs without any manual intervention, at our Oldham print works.

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