Checking out the masthead of a publication, journalism job boards, or titles next to bylines, you have probably come across terms like “managing editor,” “contributor,” “feature writer,” “copywriter,” and a range of others.
If you are pursuing a journalism career, or are intrigued with how and who is telling and reporting stories, you may have wondered what these job titles exactly mean.
While a magazine, newspaper or online publication may interpret these designations in slightly different ways, here is a list of some common journalism job titles and their general meanings.
Assignment editors may normally be associated with news-related stories. They read press releases, study newswires and national/international reports, receive phone and e-mail tips (i.e. via a newspaper‘s news desk), and gain information from other sources. Based on this collection of information, he or she may recommend stories or assign them to staff.
An associate editor generally assists the managing or other senior level editors with writing, editing and other important roles. He/she may also help with story selection and be responsible for sifting through the masses of pitches the publication receives.
A columnist writes a regular feature or piece for a publication. It may have a specific theme, from politics and business to health or the arts. It is often written in first person and offers the columnist’s opinion. In some cases a columnist’s regular articles are published by multiple publications.
Often times a contributing editor is a freelance writer who has contributed to the same publication multiple times. He/she is often not a staff member, but has become known as a regular contributor for that publication.
A contributing writer is generally a freelance writer (not on staff) whose article or series of articles has been published by a publication.
A copy editor goes through articles and corrects them for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formats them to correspond to the publication’s “house style.” Generally they do not change the actual content (i.e. ideas/information) contained in the article. When a publication has an extensive staff, the copyeditor’s fine tuning may be followed by a proofreader’s final check.
Copywriters are often associated with writing for advertising or product/service promotion purposes. In a magazine, newspaper or online publication scenario, a copywriter might find themselves writing advertorials, product descriptions and other “copy.”
___ [department] Editor:
A large publication will have an editor for each of its departments or sections, such as business, politics, news, sports, lifestyles, arts & entertainment, economics, health, technology, travel and more. That editor may be in charge of responding to story pitches, assigning and editing stories and also writing.
___ [department] Reporter/Writer
A reporter or writer that devotes most or all of his or her time to one of the publication’s departments or sections, such as business, politics, news, lifestyles, arts & entertainment, economics, health, sports, technology, travel and more.
The Editor-in-Chief, also called the Executive Editor, heads the entire publication. Depending on the size of the newspaper, magazine or online publication, this role may involve more staff management and business duties than editorial ones. Their roles may range from designing the entire editorial line-up or managing the entire editorial team to ensuring the publisher’s goals are met or dealing with those difficult decisions of journalism ethics and integrity.
As the name suggests, the Editorial Assistant supports editors and other senior staff. This may be a clerical/administrative assistant role, but also may involve functions similar to an Associate Editor.
A fact checker, also called a “researcher” by some publications, is an unsung hero. He or she must ensure an article is factually flawless—in other words that what is reported as true, must be in fact 100 percent true with solid research and sources backing the story.
Feature writers write “feature stories,” those pieces that do not cover breaking news, but instead explores a theme or topic more thoroughly. Generally feature articles are longer pieces, often over 1,000 words (sometimes starting at 500+ words) and can be several thousand words.
The managing editor is like the “quarterback” of the magazine’s editorial activities and content. He/she generally reports to the Editor-in-Chief while managing the rest of the editorial and writing team. The managing editor’s duties may consist of assigning stories, overseeing each section of the publication, staff hiring, writing, editing, enforcing deadlines and more.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) September 11, 2014
The publisher is generally the publication’s owner, or has some financial ties to the publication, and oversees aspects like printing (if applicable), distribution, administering the publication’s policies, and more.
The meaning of production editor varies, but often he/she is responsible for running the production process, such as hiring or managing production staff, overseeing the design or visual layout of the publication, dealing with printing or copyright dealings and more.
A reviewer or critic may be a regular staff writer or occasional contributor that evaluates the quality of a particular product, service or genre. They tend to specialize in one area, such as books, film, theatre, technology, restaurants, or other interests.
Unlike a freelancer or contributor, a staff writer is employed by the publication to regularly report/write.
The above journalism job title glossary is not an exhaustive, or all-defining list. Depending on the publication, there may be more, less or different designations with varying job descriptions.
To learn more about roles in print and online journalism, pay special attention every time you flip open a magazine or newspaper or click on an article. Take note of bylines and staff mastheads, departments and biography blurbs.