What does an Assignment Editor do?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 May 2020
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An assignment editor decides which stories or events will be reported on and who will cover the story. She may work for a television station, radio station or newspaper. The people to whom she assigns stories or features for coverage generally include reporters, writers, photographers and videographers.

This type of editor is normally in charge of breaking news on local, regional, national or international events. She is typically required to use her judgment to decide which topics are worthy of the most coverage. Before she assigns a story for coverage, she ordinarily checks the sources and facts for validity.

The sources an assignment editor has are normally varied. She often has ties with emergency services agencies or community leaders and politicians that alert her to breaking stories. Local residents also regularly contact the media with leads and ideas for featured reports. News and press releases are a common source for an assignment editor to obtain ideas for publication or broadcast as well.

She generally bases her assignments on the expertise of reporters and writers who have experience in covering specific subjects or geographic areas. The specialty areas commonly include local human interest stories, local, regional or world politics, crime and corruption and business and economics. Smaller stations or newspapers may have one or two reporters who report on all topics. If the news concerns a major event, more than one reporter is normally assigned to report on it from different aspects and viewpoints.

If there is a newsworthy event that is ongoing, such as an election campaign or disaster recovery effort, the assignment editor is frequently required to plan and implement a series that may span several days or weeks. She is generally required to review each segment for good progression and to make sure all the facts are current and correct. If sensitive quotes are part of the story, her job normally requires her to double-check the source and context to ensure no slander or libel is involved.

A person in this position frequently supervises and reviews the work of the writers and reporters on her staff. She may also edit their work for clarity and substance. In some cases, an assignment editor may occasionally write or report on a certain topic as well.

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required to apply for this job. A bachelor’s degree in journalism or writing is strongly preferred. Work background in news writing, editing or reporting is often considered a plus for those wishing to pursue a career in assignment editing.

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