Managing editors play a key role in the operation of newspapers and magazines, including managing staff, establishing publishing policies and overseeing story development. A managing editor position is often the pinnacle of a career in print journalism. This highly coveted job also brings with it a heap of responsibility. In most cases, the success or continued success of a publication relies heavily on the performance of the managing editor, and performance depends largely on meeting the expectations of the job.
As a managing editor, you directly oversee all other editors, acting as a supervisor, mentor and guide. You work closely with the opinion page editor, news editor, sports editor, lifestyles editor, graphics editor, online editor, design editors and other top newsroom employees. You also promote and hire new editors and may have to terminate those who fail to meet expectations. At smaller companies, the managing editor may hire and fire all editorial employees, including reporters and photographers. You also make daily decisions that affect the entire editorial department. Such decisions include adjusting deadlines under special circumstances, including during elections, and deciding whether to run controversial content, such as images of dead bodies at a crash scene.
Sets and Enforces Policies
The managing editor sets and enforces policies and procedures used by the publication’s editors, reporters, photographers and news clerks, and also sets times for editorial meetings, deadlines for sending the newspaper to the pressroom for printing. You also help in enforcing policies established by the publisher and editor in chief. Such policies may include when to publish names with stories. For example, many newspapers do not publish the names of sex crime victims and some do not publish the names of youth charged with various crimes. In special circumstances, you would also make the decision to stray from the normal policy.
The managing editor often assigns stories to news departments or directly to reporters. This involves approving or denying pitched news and feature stories. You would also play an advisory role in deciding how stories are reported, recommend or require that a particular story appear on the first page above the fold, or may recommend that a story be held for a different day. You also have a key role in establishing and overseeing compliance with style standards. This includes making certain that all editors and reporters use the correct fonts and in-house punctuation, spelling and grammar guidelines.
As a key part of your role, you serve as the primary liaison between the editorial staff and the publisher and editor in chief. At smaller companies, the managing editor may communicate directly with the publisher on a frequent basis, but at larger companies this is rarely the case. The publisher and editor in chief may pass information to you for delivery to the editorial staff. This may include a simple message of a job well done but also could include written correspondence warning of possible job cuts or awards won by the publication and its employees. You would also communicate with the advertising department when, for example, advertising chooses to publish a special section and needs editorial assistance in providing copy. The managing editor also fields emails and phone calls from the public.