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Executive editors are the individuals who oversee the editorial content of a newspaper, magazine or other type of publication. In a newspaper setting, the executive editor is the newsroom leader. In the corporate world, an executive editor usually coordinates the publishing of a book. For most who work in this position, a bachelor’s degree in journalism or communication and significant editorial experience are mandatory. Many start out as reporters and are promoted mid-level editors. For larger newspapers, the executive editor takes on a role similar to a publisher (the person who coordinates all aspects of the publication’s production).
Executive editors must exhibit the ability to effectively manage subordinates and assistant editors. Depending on the size of the publication, the executive editor is to ensure that the publication’s content is in line with its mission. This is done by coordinating with the assistant editors, who take this information back to their subordinates. In addition, the executive editor approves the hiring of newsroom staff members, performs conduct appraisals and is an editorial staff disciplinarian.
At smaller newspapers, the executive editor could take on more than a leadership role. Her background in reporting, editing and pagination could come into play if other staff members are out sick or on vacation. The souring effects of a recession may find newspapers cutting staff or implementing a hiring freeze. It isn’t uncommon to see an editor step in and take on more duties within the newsroom.
In the newspaper industry specifically, the executive editor is the individual who represents the publication in the public sector. For instance, along with the publisher, the executive editor is a member of the local chamber of commerce or other community organizations. Representing the newspaper allows the publisher and editor to establish a rapport with locals. Also, the executive editor is the commentator on issues, specifically when it comes to controversy. Because all editorial decisions are made by the editor, it is his role to defend the newspaper’s stance.
The executive editor must be able to handle planning, scheduling and budgeting duties. Planning includes conducting meetings and coordinating budgets (list of stories and photos that will appear in the publication). Meeting publication deadlines falls under scheduling. In addition, executive editors are called to work with other departments such as advertising, production and IT to ensure deadlines are met. Finally, keeping the department’s expenses (e.g., staff salaries and supplies) to a certain amount are budgeting necessities.
Knowledge of the Law
The newsroom leader must have a firm understanding of communication law and Associated Press style. Many times, the executive editor is the end-all on stories that run in the publication. She also has the power to establish an in-house style guide. Executive editors also oversee the production of the editorial page in a newspaper setting. The editor must ensure that editorials reflect the opinion of the staff and that columns align with the readership of the community.
Tonya Whitaker has worked as a professional journalist and copy editor since 1998. She has written columns and features for "The Huntsville Item" and "North Dallas Gazette." Whitaker earned a Bachelor of Science in sociology from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and is pursuing a Master of Arts in English from Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas.