Magazine Editors: an Illustrated Definition

My sister has to have her “options.” It’s hard to give you a textual image of how she emphasizes “options,” but it involves moving her hands palms-down in a concrete downward motion.


Today in Magazine Editing, I learned that I indeed have options. Professor Rowe lectured today on the roles of an editor. There are four forms of magazine editors, listed below in a hierarchy:

Editor in Chief — The big kahuna who puts his or her name at the top of the masthead. It’s the duty of the EIC to make sure the magazine complies with its mission, dictate what goes in and what stays out and just generally be the face of a publication. Trips to Paris are sometimes required.

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, Editor in Chief of Runway in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

Managing Editor — A lot of times, managing editors don’t even read copy. They’re the organized ones who take care of budgets, schedules, deadlines and other components that make sure a magazine gets to print on time.

When you’re coming up on a deadline, this is what the managing editor looks like to you.

Senior/Departmental Editor — These editors are assigned to different sections of a magazine (fashion, entertainment, soil and fertilizer, etc.). They specifically work with writers and have the vision for how individual stories should read.

Somewhere in there in tiny little letters is the list of departmental editors.

Copyeditors  — Sadly, these guys are the ones seen as bottom of the totem-pole; however, they actually play a large role in the process because they not only catch embarrassing grammatical, spelling and punctuation mistakes in copy, but also make sure stories read well by using fresh eyes and the mind of a reader.

Thanks to cartoonist Stage Stossel for this: now I can say copyediting is a physical workout, too.

So which one am I? As Jen Rowe explained all these, I found myself getting more and more excited. I’m sure my friend Justin thought I was nuts because I couldn’t stop smiling as she was going through these great job descriptions. Any one of the above would be alright by me. I’d love to be the face of a publication and responsible for its image. Being head of a film or features department would be a dream come true, and I love to work closely with writers to improve their pieces and make them print-worthy; why do you think I jump at the chance to read some of my friends’ fiction and non-fiction writing? I have an obsessive organizational program including three calendars and multi-colored Post-Its, so being managing editor would be a good fit. Even copyediting would be great, getting to look at each story and “save the day” by catching errors that would kill the magazine’s credibility. From my copyediting pretest score, I’d say I’m well on my way to being a good proofreader.

So as Bridget would say, it’s all about OPTIONS. Luckily, I have interest in all four branches of the editing career, which leaves plenty of opportunities open. The fact I wouldn’t mind writing also makes me very hirable.

So today’s journalism lesson is that not only are there plenty of OPTIONS out there, but that it’s also smart to have a broad interest and keep the mind open to anything that might come your way.

After all, we can’t all be Miranda Priestly…

Although I wouldn’t object.

I love reading as much as writing: leave me a message!

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