Newspaper Editor  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotDeadlines often come up 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most newspapers have reacted by setting up a sister website that keeps pace with the events of the day. The regular print version still puts out its daily editions. In fact, many newspaper websites still look like their paper-based cousins.

Some papers use their print reporters for their Internet editions. Other papers have a team of reporters just for their website. In fact, some of the stories written for the web-based edition are often picked up for the print version.

dotSince newspapers nearly always work around the clock, there may be two editors: a day editor and a night one. Their jobs are almost the same. The day editor will spend more time in meetings with management and advertisers, however. These people don't usually want to have a meeting at 2:30 a.m.

dotA newspaper editor's job is multitasking to the limit. They need to make decisions all the time. What should go in the paper? What shouldn't? When should it go in? And then a hot news story comes in and throws a monkey wrench into the whole deal.

Choosing what goes into a paper is a big part of the work. But editors often have to perform the more mundane tasks like checking for errors. And they have to edit. That is, they have to cut a story to make it fit. A good editor can do this and still keep the story interesting.

dotMany editors contribute to the paper, too. Gail Martin is a newspaper editor. "As well, I cover my own municipal beat and write editorials," she says.

At another newspaper, co-editor Julie Murchison Harris handles "telephone calls and other communications from concerned citizens who want to voice an opinion on something we ran or on a community issue important to them."

dotAn editor is a lot like a sports coach. They have to organize, give orders, make decisions, meet with staff and management and maintain a clear vision of their goal.

They have to plan future activities, like what general themes and stories the paper will cover over the coming months. With this in mind, they may hire freelance writers to develop stories to be used at a later date.

Much of an editor's work is still done from a desk. A computer and a bank of telephones are the tools.

dotSomeone who is physically challenged can do an editor's work. But editor John Arendt makes an interesting point. "Nearly every editor I know started out as a reporter, and the demands of that job can be hard for a physically challenged individual," he says.

dotAt a smaller paper with limited resources, the editor can do nearly everything on the paper. They write the stories, edit them, do the ads, handle the phones and take out the trash.

Editor Jerry West says his job is like that. He does the "reporting, editing, layout, accounting, advertising and janitorial."

At a Glance

Decide what goes in the paper and where

  • Newspapers work around the clock
  • Many editors also write for the paper
  • A journalism degree is a good place to start