« The Fog Index | Home | The Editor's Role as Manager »

Shifting Responsibility -- Part II

Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Components of my decision-making process.

By Peter P. Jacobi

To continue my discussion of what I and that Indiana University class of budding music writers discussed when I visited the class taught by a highly respected Bach scholar and nifty writer, Professor Daniel Melamed, I should expand on that list of important factors in a review that I gave you and from which a music critic (or call me a reviewer, I care not what the ID) should choose the ones most needed for a particular assignment. The choices, as you well know, will differ; choices of inclusions and exclusions must differ for always shifting reasons in any story that we write and/or edit.

Details of Who, Why, and What

Again, we need to consider the who that is getting the finished product, the ages of your receivers, their social and economic backgrounds, their education, the financial levels they exist on and with, the interests that bring your product and them together, and in what sort of chosen publication: newsletter, newspaper, daily, weekly, magazine (consumer, trade, academic journal), website, radio, television, or some other sort of social medium.

Are we involved in a news story straight and narrow; a publicity release required to promote; a feature story stressing human interest; an educational piece designed to teach the readers about something or other; an opinion piece striving to make a point, to exploit a pint of views; a sermon-like essay created to cause contemplation, to cause reflection?

The coverage and content differ. The approach differs. The use of language differs. The structural devices differ. The editorial gimmicks differ. These may not be "Editors Only" tasks, since writers face these issues slam-bang with every part being prepared for publication or presentation or sweeping into the electronic stratosphere. But it is the editor -- more than any other contributing expert in the process of communicating messages of information or salesmanship or opinion building or inspiring or teaching or entertaining or what have you -- that holds the primary responsibility for treating the editorial product properly, efficiently, and most attractively.

Important Reasons

I consider a part of my decision-making when I prepare for, cover, analyze, and write a review which to involve in the process and then which to include and exclude, emphasize or de-emphasize. They are, alphabetically: allegiance to art, allegiance to artist, allegiance to audience, analysis, community boosterism versus welfare of community, consumerism, context, description, education, elucidation, entertainment, history, impression, institutional goals, interpretation, intimate knowledge, judgment, narration, observation, opinion, and reportage.

Some are self-explanatory, but let me say something about each item on the list, to make sure you're benefiting from this lesson and that your project will benefit from a making-sure sentence or so of explaining. Explanation (exposition) is a critically important part of writing.

Allegiance to Art and/or Artist

Is a primary goal to promote/praise/deliver information about, in my case, the music or musicians; in your case whatever the person or object or institution or cause you're dealing with? Does that need to be the focus of coverage and in what form you best provide the coverage?

Allegiance to Audience

A primary goal of virtually all we do is to serve our audience, in my case the audience that attends (in a preview piece) or attended (in a review) or might purchase a recording of; in your case, again, whether it's the subject matter you're striving to explain or promote or the reader/listener most important to be served.


Does what you're dealing with require explanation, to be made clear for understanding?

Community Boosterism versus Community Welfare

This might be just a matter of choosing the words and/or that information. I tend to avoid boosterism, acts of circus nature. I prefer to focus on how what I'm writing reinforces what I believe to be the benefits of the community that can result from what I've experienced.


What in the way of backgrounding does your public need to better grasp the meaning and/or importance of the subject matter?


I need to describe what I've experienced or, in a preview, am about to; it's the most difficult task, to translate sound into words; you face your own difficulties in describing, but some sort of describing you most likely will have to do.


My readers need educating, different ones for different events; they need backgrounding. I suspect that's part of your job, too.

I've got more "Important Reasons" to present, and they will appear in the concluding part of this series next issue.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

Add your comment.

« The Fog Index | Top | The Editor's Role as Manager »