How Does a Newspaper Editor Spend a Workday?
The workday of a newspaper editor may vary depending on the size of the newspaper. At small community weeklies around the nation, a single editor may supervise all aspects of news-gathering and production. By contrast, major metropolitan dailies have dozens of editors in different departments. These editors have with highly specialized responsibilities ranging from assigning stories to reporters early in the morning to fact-checking stories and proofing pages late at night. At these larger papers, the executive editor or editor-in-chief sits at the top of the food chain and is ultimately accountable for the editorial product that readers receive each day.
Many newspaper editors start work early in the morning. After reviewing that day’s edition, they begin laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s paper. Assignment editors make sure that reporters and photographers will be dispatched to important meetings and other events. Editors in charge of sections like local news, business, sports and lifestyle features typically meet with the managing editor and/or executive editor to discuss what are expected to be the day’s biggest stories. Later in the morning there may be another meeting of editors to discuss the offerings being prepared for the upcoming Sunday edition. Editors may also take time to respond to comments, complaints and questions from readers.
The pace of activity in the newsroom picks up in the afternoon. Editors huddle with reporters to discuss their articles and attend meetings to finalize the day’s slate of stories for both the print and online versions of the newspaper. After extensive consultation, the executive editor selects the articles and photographs that will appear on the print edition’s front page.
The copy editors and news editors who are responsible for producing the actual pages that readers see in the morning generally come to work late in the afternoon. They are responsible for designing how the pages will look, questioning reporters about portions of articles that appear unclear, biased or inaccurate and also trimming stories that are too long. Faced with looming evening production deadlines, these editors must work quickly and be able to solve problems without delay. Even after going home for the day, the executive editor may be called upon to approve changes in the front-page lineup or resolve other unexpected situations that develop.
The workday of a newspaper editor can change at a moment’s notice when breaking news occurs. A plane crash or high-profile crime can force everyone in the newsroom to drop what they are doing. An important story that breaks late at night could literally prompt an editor to stop the printing presses while reporters scramble to track down details as rapidly as possible.
A wave of red ink has hit the newspaper industry in recent years, due to decreasing advertising revenue, plummeting readership and rising costs of newsprint. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 21,000 newspaper industry jobs disappeared in 2008. Tough economic times have added more stress to the workday of newspaper editors who face worries about their own job security while still striving to put out a quality product with fewer resources. Illustrating the state of flux within the industry, nine of the largest newspapers in the U.S. have changed the editor at the top of their masthead within the past 12 months.