AEJMC09: Editors' Breakfast
Catching up a bit. ...
Thursday morning was the annual editing profs' breakfast at the big j-profs meeting in Boston. Some useful thoughts came from Josh Benton, director if the Nieman Journalism Lab, and David Beard, editor of Boston.com (and a former fellow APer), in no particular order:
I learned a wonderful new word - the "photocracy," courtesy of Beard. He was commenting on how editors are still needed in the online world, but perhaps in different ways. The context was that the Boston.com staff might get a lot of photos from an event, and it's the staff that has to figure out a narrative, not always what the Globe's "photocracy" favors. Someone needs to read behind all those captions and see the big picture ...
From Benton on future of editing: Many new ventures online are sole person not necessarily hewing to style. Large orgs like Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo have more editors than writers/reporters. But those editors see themselves as curators/aggregators. Some key features he sees of new editing jobs.
- A key feature of new jobs will be coaxing journalistic-quality work out of non-journalists. Actually, he says, that's always been an important skill on community papers, if you think about it.
- Solid headline writing with a good understanding of search engine optimization.
- Curation, much like the old wire editor who combined various stories into one comprehensive report - the ability to ingest large amounts of information and find the nuggets.
- Not so important: AP style, which tends to promote sameness, and the ability to shape multiple voices into one kind of house style.
Beard's key features are:
- An open mind
- Ability to reprioritize on a dime
- The ability to be what he calls an "early steward/process maker" who can help build best practices in this new era that incorporate the best of what we have been doing
Benton said many reporters write differently when they know it will be read by editors than when they know it's going direct to readers. "I learned more from blogging because I had to pay attention to readers," he said.
(Note: Some folks walked out at this point,
A few other random notes:
- Beard said it actually was a bit scary during the first few years of Boston.com not to have a copy desk when "we have 40, 50, 60 issues a day" compared with the three or four of the paper (this is where he made his "photocracy" comment)
- Benton says the future business model is likely to be both content creation and curation. Even in the glory days of papers, only part of the content was local, he said. Large parts were "curated," if you think of the wire editor's job as picking the best from multiple sources and melding that into a coherent, comprehensive report.