Magazine editors have two key roles: to commission high-quality content that appeals to their target readership, and to coordinate production so that the magazine is published on time and on budget. Magazine editors come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have strong writing credentials, while others have focused on an editorial career. Good editors combine those attributes.
A bachelor’s degree in journalism, English or mass communication is important for this role, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Editors who work on scientific or technical publications may also need educational qualifications in their field of interest.
Editors must have empathy with their readers. They must understand the audience’s interests and motivations so that they can commission material that will attract and retain a commercially-viable number of readers. Editors must be familiar with the topics that are hot with their readers so they can keep the magazine fresh and relevant. Empathy enables the editor to develop the vision and editorial direction of the magazine. At a detailed level, it helps editors select and brief contributors, and judge the relevance of their work.
The ability to collaborate with a team is important. A magazine editor is at the heart of a team of contributors, which include staff or freelance writers, photographers and designers who create the content for the magazine. Editors brief contributors on the concept of articles and work closely with them to achieve the right balance between copy and visual material. By reviewing submissions and suggesting changes to improve clarity or meaning, editors can strengthen the impact of the articles and maintain a high editorial standard.
Attention to detail is essential for an editor. An editor must have an excellent knowledge of grammar and punctuation so that they can ensure a magazine’s content reads clearly and is free of errors. They must also use their writing skills and subject knowledge to ensure that writers have covered their topic fairly and accurately.
Magazine editors require good project management skills. They prepare plans for future issues, generally months ahead of publication date. They identify the possible content for each issue and create assignments so that contributors are aware of their individual commitments and deadlines. As publication dates get closer, they must check that content is available by its planned dates and make any adjustments to accommodate late changes or breaking news. They must understand production and distribution requirements so that final content is available when printers or digital publishers need it.