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The Editor's Role as Manager

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

A new book by Howard Rauch reinforces the tenets of effective editorial management.

By William Dunkerley

Being a manager is not always at the forefront of our minds as we churn out issue after issue. Sure, we make assignments and manage deadlines. But there is a larger dimension to editorial management than just that.

A lot of editors I know give short shrift to their greater managerial role. Most did not come into editorial work from a management background. More common is the person who became an editor as an extension of his or her expertise in the field covered by a publication. Others came with an academic background in journalism or English. Not many MBAs come out of school and set their sights on editorial management.

I got to thinking about this matter while reading a new book titled Get Serious about Editorial Management. It's written by Howard Rauch, an Editors Only contributor and a distinguished consultant in the editorial field.

He takes up an issue that's really important right now. Our whole industry is facing challenges that previous generations of editors never could have dreamed of (or perhaps nightmared about)!

Readers now prefer to consume information in radically different ways, and they are evolving at a rapid pace. This is no time to ignore our essential role as editorial managers. Instead that duty needs to gain prominence.

One chapter in Rauch's book deals with common management errors. I'd like to share with you some of what he says.

The Chronically Late Editor

One of Rauch's points is about the procrastinator/perfectionist syndrome. You know, it's the editor who turns out excellent work but is often late because he finds it hard to stop polishing his article. Rauch asks, "Do you overlook weaknesses because of the strengths?" That's quite a dilemma, but it shouldn't be ignored.

Rauch suggests that the problem itself should be headed off back in the hiring process. He writes, "The best defense you have is a set of quantitative standards before you begin hiring. Articulate these standards when screening all editorial applicants, repeat the discussion during each new editor's orientation, and support all this with written job descriptions that include quantitative expectations."

Staff Confrontations

Dovetailing with the matter of chronic lateness is the occasional need to confront a staff member for that or any other kind of problem. That may be the last thing you want to do when struggling to make progress toward deadlines. Failing to deal with the problem won't likely make it go away, however. In fact, it's best to deal with it in a timely way.

Rauch advises, "Effective criticism must be scheduled closely on the heels of the infraction -- not several weeks or months later, when the next official performance review is scheduled."

Often, however, confronting personnel problems only occurs during an annual salary review, Rauch laments. What's even worse, he adds, is "when the staffer is not hearing this directly from the boss, but from the human resources personnel."

Says Who There's a Problem?

Speaking of confronting a staff member with a problem, what do you do if she disputes your contention? Rauch states plainly that "written records are essential to staff improvement and oversight."

There's a managerial shortcoming Rauch identifies in this regard: "Many supervising editors still prefer to rely on verbal feedback as a way to cure an errant staff member." He admonishes, "Don't fall into this trap!"

Rauch suggests that you "must convince a problem staff member that you are carefully documenting performance shortfalls in meeting deadlines and productivity levels as well as recording lateness and absence patterns." In other words, you've got to let him know that accountability is in place.

Rauch concludes, "If you consistently rewrite an editor's work, that editor should be furnished with 'before' and 'after' versions of each manuscript. An accompanying memo should spell out why the changes were made."

Tips Galore

Rauch's book is packed with similarly practical and effective ways of pursuing your role as an editorial manager.

The book has fourteen chapters:

--Use Data to Enhance Editorial Performance
--Twelve Common Management Errors
--Commit to In-House Training
--Quantitative Factors Improve Staff Reviews
--Fourteen Causes of Editorial Burnout
--Fix Your Editorial Marketing Arsenal
--How to Assess Editorial Superiority
--Compete with Authority
--Make the Most of Trade Shows
--Go All Out for Debut Issues
--Frequent Research Must Be a Priority
--Overcoming Sponsored Content Hurdles
--Five Challenges to Stellar Online News
--Twelve Ethical Issues You Must Address

An appendix is also included with tips for better editorial content.

Get Serious about Editorial Management contains 132 pages in a 5 x 8 format and is available for purchase on Amazon.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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