Reporter and editor relationships

As a newsroom,  we allow articles to be  submitted from other classes within the journalism department.  This is similar to when a newspaper or magazine publishes freelance work. With these submissions, we give the author the opportunity to write for  an online publication. These articles can then be  used for their professional portfolios. Their work becomes official. The editing process can result in a lack of communication. Each editor was assigned a writer from the Reporting and Writing II class.  After the story was written, our editors worked with the writers to improve their stories. As the story is edited, many changes occur.  There is always a need for additional information and constant communication with writers.

In an email from Georgia Swing, managing editor of the Duluth News Tribune, she said that tension and conflict in the editor-reporter relationship is a constant. The editor wants one story while the reporter wants to do another. The editor asks for more when the reporter believes it’s done. The editor believes it needs to be made more clear when the reporter thinks it already is.The editor says the lead needs to be punched up or rewritten; the reporter likes her lead. The editor wants the article right now, and the reporters want more time to do more reporting.

"The only way this can work, long-term, is for the two to air differences, be honest with each other and be respectful. The odds of it happening are about the same as having a good marriage," Swing said.

At the Duluth News Tribune, editors and reporters work on the stories together while everyone is in the newsroom. Questions and answers are done across the newsroom or via email. Once one or the other isn't in the newsroom anymore calls or emails on questions and material changes are absolutely necessary before the copy of the article is touched.

"That doesn’t always happen, and changes made without input from a reporter are the biggest source of conflict and lack of trust between a reporter and editor," said Swing. "One of the worst things that can happen is that an editor introduces an error into a reporter’s copy with editing changes."

Editors know what they are looking for. They understand copy editing and they work to get the article clear and concise while shaping it into the best it can be for their publication and for the writer. With this process toes can be stepped on, feelings can be hurt and strain can form in the editor and author relationship. What both parties need to realize is respect is crucial in these dealings.

"LakeVoice is the third publication I have worked with as an editor," said Alicia Lebens, LakeVoice copy editor. "Something no one tells you about becoming an editor is how much of your job is just human resource issues. Working well with other people is so important, but it is also really hard. Creative work and writing is very personal, so you want to be mindful of that."

The one with the power within this relationship is the editor.

"Editors advocate for reporters when they:  push for the best possible play and display of their stories, help make their copy clear and strong without making ham-handed changes for poor reasons, give the reporters opportunities for training and career development and help them avoid errors, " Swing said.

The editor must deal with the author with utmost courtesy and understanding all the while balancing what needs to be done to the article without insulting the author and his work. The author must work with the editor and understand that while he holds all the knowledge about the subject, the editor holds all the knowledge of how it must be presented.

"As a reporter, your main focus is the story and you can get very involved with it. As an editor, you focus on how the story fits into the publication, how it will affect the community and how it looks. Both want the story to be its best, but they look at it with a different view. In the end, the editor has the last call, the last responsibility and that holds some power," Lebens said.

With the reporter and editor it's important to keep in mind that the editor is more of a guide, helping the reporter get the story where it needs to go not demanding exactly where it should be.

"The editor comes in as the story is being written. Just asking a reporter to tell about what he or she has learned, and discussing how they see the story, what they’re frustrated about, what they think the lead of the story should be – that’s where the story is often shaped or clarified in the reporter’s mind. That doesn’t happen if reporters and editors don’t speak to each other regularly," Swing said.

It is a give and take relationship that cannot work without both members working together with each other and understanding that somethings must change if other things are to succeed.

Alicia Lebens talks about editing and what it means to be an editor.

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