With traditional journalism jobs more difficult to find, it can be a scary time to enter the workforce. One career in the journalism and writing sectors that stays relatively consistent is editing.
Types of Editing Positions
Normally you cannot become a managing or senior editor of a major publication straight out of the gate. But there are a range of editing positions allowing you to gain valuable experience, while earning an income, to work your way up to more senior roles should you wish.
Copy editor: Copy editors review an article or piece to correct any errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation, but their position is often much more than this. They may also be called upon to fact check, improve or suggest improvements for the flow or readability of the text, create the headlines, captions, pull-out quotes and the like, assure the piece’s content adheres to the publication’s formatting and ethical standards, and more. Large companies or publications may also have proofreaders or copy markers who generally take a “last look” to ensure there are no typos or errors left.
Assistant Editor: Generally speaking, whether it is for a publication, outlet or publishing company, an assistant editor assists the managing editor. This can involve a variety of tasks from editing and proofreading and assigning stories to acting as a liaison between the editor and writers, facilitating the production schedule, writing their own articles and overseeing a particular department like local news, arts, international news, business or sports. Some publications/outlets also have assignment editors who have their finger on the pulse (i.e. news wires, story leads, etc.) and help decide what should be covered and by whom.
Acquisitions Editor: Generally acquisitions editors are employed by book publishers to review submitted manuscripts to determine which are worthy of publication for that particular company, work with authors and agents and also actively seek out potential new publishable stories.
Managing and Executive Editors: A large publication or outlet might have both managing and executive editors, whereas a smaller publication/outlet might just have one editor in a senior role. Managing editors generally oversee all of production, from assignments to production; executive editors might be responsible for staffing, budgeting, having the final say on all aspects of the publication or program, and more.
Editors, from entry-level to senior roles, may work for newspapers, magazines, websites and other online media, publishing houses, radio or television broadcasters, but also the corporate world, PR and advertising firms, businesses, colleges and universities, organizations and more.
Additionally, you’ve probably heard the term “freelance writer” thrown around. Editors may also work as freelancers working for a variety of clients.
Demand for Editors
Have you ever looked at an online job board? Just based on my personal anecdotal evidence, any time I have looked for journalism jobs, I see about two copy-editor positions for every one journalism position posted.
But don’t take my biased word for it:
According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for editors is projected to “show little or no change” or decrease by 2% between 2012 and 2022. However, the BLS adds that while the competition for editing jobs in traditional print media is increasing, “Editors who have adapted to online media and are comfortable writing for and working with a variety of electronic and digital tools should have an advantage in finding work. Although the way in which people consume media is changing, editors will continue to add value by reviewing and revising drafts and keeping the style and voice of a publication consistent.”
Now when you compare the job outlook for editors to that of reporters and correspondents (i.e. journalists) & broadcast news analysts, gaining an editing position seems more feasible. According to the BLS, the job outlook for reporters, correspondents & broadcast news analysts is projected to decrease by 13% (2012-2022).
Interestingly, the job outlook for writers and authors—which comprises a variety of roles from writing content for a non-profit, company or PR department to writing a series of articles for a magazine, newspaper or online publication or writing biographies and scripts—is 3% growth between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. While a 3% increase is still slower than the average projected rate of growth for all occupations, “online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring demand for writers and authors with Web and multimedia experience,” states the BLS.
As far as traditional editing positions go, the highest number tend to be focused in major cities, but even these are competitive. Online writing and editing positions are filling in a significant number of the gaps, and can potentially performed regardless of where you live. Make sure your education and experience reflects the changing face of journalism when the time comes to get your dream journalism job.
You Might Diversify
Some writers and journalists lead very successful careers through diversifying. For instance, some freelancers or part-timers may compensate part of their work schedule and salary through picking up editing contracts.
Although it can have its challenges, some thrive and enjoy having an eclectic career, rather than one steady employer. For example, such a professional’s schedule could include copy-editing assignments for one client, working as an online editor for a magazine part time, freelance reporting and writing for various publications, leading writing workshops the occasional time, and working several hours a week doing public relations and for a publishing company.
Why Editing Skills are Important for All Journalists
Even if you are not officially working as an “editor,” possessing editing skills is extremely advantageous.
“It is good for any writer who wants a career in journalism to know about copy editing not only for the sake of the media for which they write, but also as a way to make their own articles look more professional,” states author Derrick Lions in his book Journalism Careers. Lions adds that due to reduced staffing, publications may call on their writers to act as their own copy-editors.
In any case, the less work an editor has to do to refine your article or copy or script, the happier they will be. This can increase the likelihood of that editor wanting to give you more responsibility as an employee or to work with you (i.e. as a freelancer) more in the future.
There are numerous ways to learn and improve your editing skills such as professional development programs, online courses, reading specialized books or learning from the veterans of the field through reading or observing their work.
Writing and editing are a journey, and continuously learning and practicing will make you better and better throughout your life time.
Some Recommended Reading:
– The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
-The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, With Exercises and Answer Keys by Amy Einsohn
-Garner’s Modern American Usage by Bryan Garner
-Style: Lessons in Clarity & Grace by Joseph M. Williams and Joseph Bizup
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale
If you are currently obtaining a degree in journalism, communications or a related field, take advantage of every opportunity at your disposal to learn about editing skills as well as online publishing and journalism.
With journalism evolving so rapidly, and the competition in the field so fierce, it’s important to pad your resume, and get the most useful, and current education and experience possible.