Monday, February 16, 2015

Hire an editor, not a content coach

Somehow the title "editor" has become a dirty word.

The daily newspaper here (and other Gannett dailies) recently reorganized its news staff. Titles with words like "news" and "editor" disappeared.

That's a problem for public relations people who practice good media relations. If I want to pitch a particular story to a reporter covering the town of Brighton, I could look at a page of newsroom contacts, and find the right individual. Or an editor who'd be interested.

Newsroom, By Thomas Schmidt (NetAction) (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa
/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Today, it's a murky search. "Editors" have been replaced by Content Strategists. Audience Analysts. Consumer Experience Directors. And Storytelling Content Coaches.

One staff member's new job title is Problem Solver. I'm not kidding. In the real world, that job was formerly "Consumer Advocate." And it came with a TV studio.

Visit that Newsroom Contacts page. Find someone called a News Editor. Assignment Editor. Copy Editor. Sports Editor. Business Editor.

Good luck.

Editors play, or played, an important role in the gathering and disseminating of news. They challenged reporters' assumptions and pressed for specific facts. They changed weak passive prose from "It was announced at the town board meeting..." to active voice: "Town board members voted build a new park using a $400,000 state grant."

The men and women who edited my newspaper copy asked tough questions. They made me dig for specifics. They demanded I rewrite weak copy. Tough editors like Rudy Elder, Charles Hickey, and Mary Eggert made me a better reporter.

Could a "storytelling content coach" do the same? I want an editor, not a coach.

Every day, the internet generates mega-terabytes of content. I'm a contributor. And people in the news business need to sound relevant, and add video to their web reports. So adding "content" to their job descriptions isn't heresy. TV newsrooms have a jump here, because they've reported stories using mixed media for decades. The web is just another channel for them.

But, with reporters or Problem Solvers filing stories via iPads and tweeting 140-character snippets of facts from courtrooms, there's still a need for news editors. Copy editors. Gatekeepers.

Where do you find people with those newsy job titles? They work at many TV stations' news departments. Where they're very busy, not trying to mimic a newspaper.