You went to J-school. You put in work as an editorial assistant, assistant editor and copy editor. Now the managing editor position is calling your name. Before you answer, check out what we learned about the job from those in the know.
What exactly does a managing editor do?
A managing editor administers the day-to-day operations of a publication or website. This includes generating story ideas; planning, assigning and editing content; overseeing spending; commissioning stories and art; overseeing production schedules and editorial calendars; and supervising editorial staff and freelancers. A managing editor may also write copy, and monitor and/or edit social media posts.
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“I am responsible for everything that appears on the website except advertising and sponsorships,” says Jerry Hirsch, editor and VP of content for trucks.com. “I assign and edit every story published,” says Hirsch, who also works with the production editor to ensure there are photo, video and graphic assets with the articles.
“Every publication is set up differently, depending on the size of [its] workforce and the nature of [its] content,” says Lynda Bekore, managing editor of SmallBizClub.com. Bekore curates content for the daily mag, creates editorial and posting policies and negotiates with potential partners and syndicators.
What skills are required?
Know good writing when you see it. “Quality content is about connecting with your readers as much as it is about good grammar and knowledge of your topic,” says Bekore.
“Be tenacious—it’s all about the follow-up,” says Ashley Strang, managing editor at Complex Media, a multimedia platform includes Complex magazine, complex.com and several other sites. There’s more to managing a production schedule than setting deadlines, Strang says. Know your staff, know the workload and know what can get done in the allotted time.
“It’s also important to know when editors need an extra push,” she adds. Master the “delicate balance of being persistent but not annoying.”
Is working at a print publication the same as working at a website?
“Working for a website that publishes daily means accepting that not all deadlines and live dates can be set in stone, which M.E.s at print publications are accustomed to,” says Strang. You need to be flexible and fast—without sacrificing quality—to succeed in the online world.
Who is a managing editor’s boss?
It depends on how the company is structured. You may report to the editor in chief. At a smaller organization, you may report to the CEO.
Are there any similar jobs?
Executive editors, editorial directors and content managers often have similar job duties.
What do I need to get ahead in this position?
“Journalism, editing and management skills,” says Hirsch. “Good reporters often rise through the ranks to management positions,” he says, “but strong writing and reporting skills say nothing about an individual’s ability to manage a workforce.” Know how to deal with writers and creatives, who, says Hirsch, can be more difficult to manage than other employees because they’re paid to challenge conventional ideas.
Good listening skills and effective leadership also go a long way. Hold writers and editors accountable while also being a resource for them, says Strang.
How can I get my foot in the door?
Though it could be helpful, you don’t need a degree in journalism or English. More important is your reporting, writing and editing experience. Know how to get a scoop, compose a story and fine-tune good writing until it’s great.