Role of an Editor in Print Media

by Anne Hirsh; Updated September 26, 2017
The books you read go through several editorial processes.

Editors have many jobs, and titles and job descriptions vary greatly between publishing houses and types of print media. Editors-in-chief and managing editors might not even perform the roles typically associated with editing, while the task commonly thought of as editing -- namely, checking a publication for spelling, grammar and punctuation -- is performed by a proofreader rather than someone with "editor" in her job title.

Management Roles

Senior, managing, executive, chief and acquiring editors are all titles for editors responsible for overall content and quality of a print publication. In magazine publishing, a senior or managing editor might determine a theme for each issue and coordinate the production flow with designers and printers, while an executive editor or editor-in-chief determines the overall tone of the magazine. Newspaper managing editors perform similar tasks by assigning stories to other editors and writers and determining which of these stories will run in each edition. In magazine, newspaper and book publishing, they review submitted manuscripts and solicit manuscripts from professional writers to fill the publication's needs. This is also a duty performed by an acquisitions editor, who might be the same as the senior or other upper-level editor.

Content Editing

There are many different names for general content editing duties, which are generally performed by senior or managing-level editors in book publishing and by assistant or junior-level editors in the newspaper and magazine industries, although smaller periodicals might employ only one editor who performs all duty levels. The content editing role requires giving the writer direction to revise an article or manuscript for overall content and direction. Grammar and style are not addressed at this point, only the storyline.

Copy and Line Editing

Copy editors review a manuscript for clarity, mechanics and voice. They often make changes to correct grammar, punctuation and spelling, but because printed media must go through a layout process that can affect the mechanics, copy editors are not the final check for these mechanical issues. A copy editor makes the article or story as clear as possible for the reader while maintaining the author's or publication's voice. Similar to this, a line editor goes through a manuscript line by line and makes sure the piece makes sense on a sentence-by-sentence level. He might include queries to the author to clarify certain sentences and note changes to established scenarios, such as a character in a novel that has blue eyes on page 6 and brown eyes on page 63.

Other Duties

Many editors must take on additional roles, especially as print media resources shrink because of the rising costs of paper and shipping and the growing availability of information online. Many print periodical editors also manage website content and perform layout and design tasks. Editors at book publishers might take on marketing and promotional duties, at least to promote favored books in-house to the publishing executives who make final decisions on what to print.

Related Jobs

Some publications employ submissions editors, which are generally a lower-level form of an acquisitions editor. Submissions editors read through manuscripts received without a request from an editor, called unsolicited manuscripts. The submissions editor determines whether any of the manuscripts warrant the attention of a higher-level editor. This position is also called a "slush reader" and is a common entry-level position into the editing field. "Contributing editor" is also a commonly seen title in magazine and newspaper publishing and generally refers to a writer with a recurring column in the publication.

About the Author

Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.

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