The Role Of An Editor: Is This You?

Posted on October 19, 2015 in Media, Staff Picks

By Anshul Tewari

Last week, I was reading the Times Insider column on what makes a great editor, and a line by David Carr jumped out to me: “Editors create fine stories by typing on a keyboard composed of human beings. Knowing which key to hit when and how hard to press it is both art and craft. The greats manage to be both collegial and decisive.” Particularly how the art is one that demands you to be decisive. Editor’s is an ambiguous role, so to speak. From putting the back channel hard work behind some of the best stories that move us, to just being an operations manager sometimes.

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But an editor’s role is a lot more. As a journalism student, I learned a lot about editors who put their foot down, moved bridges to make stories happen, but for the longest, editors haven’t been expected to create something new. And when I say new, I don’t mean a new publication. I mean a new form of editorial discourse. A discourse that lets the journalists go beyond just informing audiences, and engage them in creating news that matters to them. Legacy media or traditional media has almost always played a very hegemonical role in deciding what people should be consuming, and what they should not. And when things went out of their hand (read sensational reporting), they safely blamed people, stating that this is what the audience demands. News always got decided within conference rooms where the development reporters were always treated as ones doing ‘soft stories,’ pushed to page 5. The tussle for who’s story made it has killed more stories than it has created. Moreover, the complete lack of highlighting people’s voices has turned editors into autocratic decision makers who are too distanced from the reader. And this generation deserves better. It deserves to tell its stories and have an audience that wants to engage.

So how do you do that? You rebuild. You push the existing machinery or build on top of it. You refuse to conform and do not fear to start afresh. Unlearning, and Relearning. And you do more of these things:

Vision and Strategy: You own and execute the vision for a media that works bottom up. That believes in making sure that the stories of the bottom 90% matter more than those of the top 10%. You create innovative content plans, tools and ideas that engage audiences. You find formats that are new, more relevant and disruptive – ones that base themselves on why you do what you do. And for that, you never lose focus of why you are doing all this in the first place. And in that, you show decisiveness of how the craft needs to be conducted.

You make the right judgments, repeatedly. And when you make wrong ones, you’re quick to correct and take into account what others, above or below you feel about it. Alongside, you tell your story. The story of what we’re building, and how we’ll get there and why it will change the way people think. And why while many may ridicule it, at the end we’ll win. You get everyone on the same page. Everyone, from the developer to the designer, to the editors and the office manager. So that if one were to ask any of those what they’re building and why – they get one answer.

Execution and Impact: You become the driving force that executes and measures impact. You know where the audiences are, you know the kind of stories they have. You help them implement those stories a lot better. Yes, chances are you will deal with stories that are not ‘good-to-go’, but chances also are that you will end up impacting someone’s life by helping them speak up. And in the process, you will deal with a set of new journalists every day. You become the face of what a mission-driven editor looks like.

Honesty and Culture: No more pushing of stories from the back channel, or having to struggle to make your stories matter. No more conversations around why you should do a mix of bold and light stories just to keep your job going. You push and push hard for an open, transparent and honest culture, where every story gets treated equally. And you build a media company that does not exist. You establish a strong team around you, with higher and better morale, and love for working together as a unit. You make them feel better.
Your success is the success of an editor who sets out to change the way stories are told. Who uses their decisiveness to mould both the art and craft and create something new.

As an editor, you must decide which side of the history you’ll be on. The one that decided what stories people should hear, or the one that helped people tell their stories. At Youth Ki Awaaz, we are twisting the arm and changing the game. We do not wish to compete with the way legacy media works – but impact it. We want opinions and stories of the bottom 90% to matter a lot more than those of the top 10%.

Yes, you can conform to your cushy job. Yes, you can flourish in the conference-room decision-making status quo where stories are killed, and people’s voices ignored. Yes, you can believe that I am an idealist talking about how the media should function. Yes, all of that is there. But just in case you believe that people have incredible stories to tell and that the world needs to hear them, that they deserve to be amplified, then we are looking for someone like you. Someone who wants to break the hegemony of legacy media, and tell stories of people – bottom up! Each point you read above is exactly how we work, and if that excites you, email us why you’d like to work with us.

Youth Ki Awaaz is hiring a Senior Editor (Publishing) with 5+ years of experience, and a Sub-Editor with 2+ years of experience. Send your CV and 2 fresh, unpublished writing samples at [email protected] to apply and find out more.

Youth Ki Awaaz is an open platform where anybody can publish. This post does not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions.