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Senior Editor vs. Managing Editor

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The function of traditional editorial titles is evolving with the emergence of online magazines and new media sites. Before diving head first into a career in journalism, it's important to know the basics of each position so that you can make an informed decision on which position you want to work toward. The fundamental differences between senior editors and managing editors vary depending on the type of medium you want to work for.

Managing Editor Role

Ed's Magazine Glossary describes a managing editor as a top editor "overseeing the actual page production of the magazine and making sure each issue reaches the printer on time." The managing editor often directs staff issues, including hiring and vacation allotment for junior editors, as well as managing budgets. He usually doesn't edit or write copy, but that varies for online publications and other content sites that have combined editorial functions.

Senior Editor Role

A senior editor, conversely, is a mid-level supervisor, junior to a managing editor, but above regular editors. According to Inside Jobs, a senior editor is typically in charge of one section within a magazine. Her duties may include developing story ideas, writing articles, copy editing, assigning work to freelance writers, and liaising with graphic designers for layout and formatting. While a senior editor answers to a managing editor, she may also manage others as well.

Senior Editors Manage Too!

As a senior editor, you have the opportunity to direct others on certain projects the way a managing editor would, making it an ideal position if you are interested in becoming a managing editor. From delegating work to freelancers and mediating disagreements within your department to enforcing deadlines and schedules, senior editors have a good deal of management opportunities in their basic functions as well. Part of the reason is to prepare the senior editor to take on managing editor duties should the position become available.

Why Online Magazines and New Media Sites are Different

Traditionally, print publications such as magazines and newspapers have larger staffs to accommodate the rigorous work load of print production. Thus, senior and managing editors have limited functions defined by their titles. Web magazines and content sites don't have the restrictions and time constraints usually associated with print. They also don't usually have the budget that major publishing companies do. Oftentimes, Web magazines will combine roles and create their own job descriptions for titles, loosely based off of traditional editorial roles, based on company needs. If you're looking to work in new media, it's important to research the company's definition of a senior or managing editor before accepting a position.


Robyn Stark is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor. She has covered art, fashion, travel and career advice for outlets such as "Modern Luxury," "Beverly Hills Lifestyle Magazine," EQAL Media and Digital Media Management.

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