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What does an Editor-In-Chief do?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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An editor-in-chief is in charge of editorial content and department operations generally at media outlet. Editors-in-chief can work at such outlets as periodicals, newspapers, online publications, book publishers or television stations. Being the sole person in charge, her accountability includes matters related to written facts, language, grammar and punctuation. Video and audio images, drawings, pictures and photos also fall under her realm of liability. In some cases, the editor-in-chief, also called the executive editor, may have budgetary responsibilities for her department.

Before publication, the editor-in-chief reviews all content. She needs to verify the facts being presented and make sure the content and style are consistent and meet the standards of the publication. If discrepancies are found, she returns the work for revision. Good communication skills are important, so the executive editor can ensure the proper revisions are made and that her employee doesn't take the revision request personally.

An editor-in-chief often delegates some of her job responsibilities to junior editors or editorial assistants. This lightens her actual workload, but if inconsistencies or errors make it to the final copy, she is formally held accountable, not the employee assigned the task. She must make judgment calls every day and decide if delegating certain jobs is worth the chance of negative repercussions and time-consuming rewrites.

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In addition to regularly editing content that has already been through a series of reviews, an editor-in-chief occasionally has to discipline or terminate an employee for plagiarism or ghostwriting. This, along with outright rejection of substandard work, is often considered the most negative aspect of being an editor-in-chief. Since plagiarism and ghostwriting are so seriously scrutinized, they can irreparably damage the reputation of a media company or publication.

For hard copy and online periodical publications, the editor-in-chief is sometimes expected to write an opinion piece, or editorial column. This type of writing usually, but not always, expresses a point of view that elicits discussion in the readership or community in general. Topics and viewpoints generally are considered the point of view of the publication, sometimes decided upon by an editorial board. An editorial board oftentimes is made up of members of the community. Readers are encouraged to respond to editorials through letters and e-mails.

As the leader of the organization, the editor-in-chief is depended upon for guidance. A person in this position is expected to set a good example for the rest of the group. She is depended upon to guide her staff with integrity and impart them with high journalistic standards.

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Discuss this Article

kylejreece
Post 12

Why the heck is this article written with the EIC being portrayed as a woman? Could it not have been written using 'they' or even 'he/she?. As a male college student who is genuinely curious about becoming an editor, it is a little bit dissuading to read an article that is written obviously towards women. This is not the Cosmopolitan or Woman's Health. It is Wise Geeks, and to me, this move is not at all wise (but maybe geeky). There is no reason it should not be gender exclusive. I absolutely believe in gender equality, and thus this article seems a bit sexist, as it is implying that only women would want to know what an EIC would

do. Am I blowing the matter out of proportions? I wouldn't think so, especially since I am a male consumer on this site, and it is quite distracting to read this article that it is not at all aimed towards my target population. Might be smart to change this wise geek, or shall I say 'Wise Guy'.
amypollick
Post 11

@Oceana: You don't have to be an editor-in-chief to spot plagiarism. If you work in any kind of publishing long enough, it jumps out at you. Take my word for it.

dfoster85
Post 9

Something to keep in mind is that the editor-in-chief is the one with primary responsibility. The buck stops here!

When I was in high school, I worked on my school paper. We had a tradition of a "Last Wills and Testaments" issue for graduating seniors. Well, some jokester thought that it would be funny to publish an ad for the issue that instead of "testaments," substituted a word for a part of the male anatomy that happens to begin with those same letters.

The editor-in-chief had nothing to do with it. But she hadn't spotted it, and she was humiliated and lost her post. The principal shut us down for the rest of the school year, and of course there was no will issue that year. I've never been so mad at anybody in my life as I was at the jerk who ruined it for everyone.

Perdido
Post 8

@Oceana – My sister serves as editor-in-chief for a national magazine, so she never deals with local stories, but she has a way of spotting plagiarized material. Mostly, she relies on the internet.

So many stories and so much information is on the web that all she has to do is check there. She has her writers send her their text documents, and she copies and pastes them into her browser to see if identical material exists anywhere else.

Another way she can spot a ripoff is in the author's style. She knows the tone that each of her writers possesses, and if the voice differs greatly from their regular style, she questions it.

Oceana
Post 7

I am curious about something. How would an editor-in-chief know that someone has plagiarized an article? Considering the vast amount of written material in the world, he couldn't possibly have a way to check it all.

Granted, he probably keeps up with stories from other area newspapers and TV stations on the same subjects, so he would know right away if a writer had copied those. However, what if a writer is doing a piece on something else, like something of historical interest?

orangey03
Post 6

I am a writer for a newspaper, and I am amazed by our editor-in-chief. He has to come up with an opinion piece every single day of the week, and he always keeps it interesting.

I just write articles about local events, so I don't have to insert any personal thoughts or ideas. His pieces are based on his strong feelings about certain subjects, and he laces them with facts and statistics.

This keeps readers interested. He gets dozens of emails just about every day from people who feel the same way or strongly disagree with him. Either way, at least he knows people are reading his editorials.

StarJo
Post 5

I work at a newspaper, and our editor-in-chief stays very busy, especially in the mornings. We print our paper in the afternoon, so he has to review everything before noon.

Before the writers give their work to the editor-in-chief, they let the editorial assistant review it first. If he finds any errors, they correct them before giving the editor-in-chief the final draft.

The writers print out copies of the actual pages with their work already on it so that he can see how it flows and if it gets cut off at the end. He reads the articles, circles any mistakes in red, makes notes if needed, and gives them back for revision.

JessicaLynn
Post 4

@indemnifyme - I always like the editor-in-chief's letter in the front of magazine too.

One thing I think is kind of interesting is how a person gets to be editor-in-chief. I would think that you would start as a regular editor and work your way up. However, that's not always the case.

There is one particular hobby related magazine I always read where the editor-in-chief used to be a well-known blogger. Yes, a blogger! She didn't have any prior experience in the magazine world, but she wrote well and knew her subject matter.

indemnifyme
Post 3

One of my favorite things about a knitting magazine I buy every quarter is the note from the editor-in-chief at the front of the magazine. She usually writes about putting together the issues, what some of her thought processes were, and about the projects.

I think it's nice for the editor to open themselves up to the reader like that. I know it makes me feel like the editor-in-chief is a real person with a personality I can relate to. I think it actually makes me more likely to buy the next issue of the magazine!

wander
Post 2

My friend has been editor-in-chief of our local newspaper for quite a few years and he loves his job. It is a bit daunting at times because being editor and chief at a small publication means that he sometimes ends up filling in for other people. He's done photography, layout and even had to do the reporting himself on occasion.

Next year he is hoping to move to a bigger publication and is working on his editor-in-chief resume. I suppose that being an editor-in-chief requires you to really work your way up to ladder to make it to the well known publications.

manykitties2
Post 1

When I was in high school I worked as gopher for the editor-in-chief beginning at the start of my co-op placement. I usually just ended up delivering his messages and looking over articles submitted by freelancers. He wouldn't take anything that I could find more than ten errors in. I suppose he figured if a high school student could spot the mistakes then the person writing the piece wasn't trying hard enough.

What I really like about working with the editor-in-chief was feeling the excitement that built in the office just before final drafts of articles needed to be submitted. There was always such a rush to get things done.

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