Friday, 3 December, 2021, 4:41 PM
Advance Search
Home Op-Ed

In My View

Who should be a newspaper editor?

Published : Friday, 22 October, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 591
Syed Badiuzzaman

Who should be a newspaper editor?

Who should be a newspaper editor?

Who is an editor? Well, that's an easy question. According to Collins English Dictionary, an editor is the person who is in charge of a newspaper and decides what will be published in its each edition. He or she supervises the work of all staff, leads them, decides about the coverage of the day's news and chooses editorial topics of the newspaper for each day.

A newspaper editor has a responsibility to develop content ideas that resonate with the policy as well as purpose of the publication. He or she decides about the placement of various news stories depending on their importance and allocates space for them and also for pictures and advertisements. Sometimes he or she assigns reporters to work on some special stories of their choice and gives additional tasks to other staff members.

They sort through submissions for the editorial, op-ed and other pages of the newspaper and make the final decision about accepting or rejecting them. They carefully examine the articles of the writers and contributors and modify them wherever needed before publication. They make sure that they are factually correct and thoroughly check for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. They also chair staff meeting on a daily basis.
But these are only a fraction of responsibilities of the person at the helm of a newspaper. According to a former editor of the Daily Telegraph of London, the definition of a newspaper editor is much broader and his or her role is also quite extensive. That's what ten journalists --including me -- from various countries of the world found as back as in 1984 at a seminar at London City University organized by the Commonwealth Press Union.

A day before, our host alerted us that there would be an important seminar tomorrow on the "Job of a Newspaper Editor" and the keynote speaker would be a former editor of the Daily Telegraph of London. "You must not miss this seminar as many of you will become the editors of various newspapers around the world in future just like your predecessors -- former fellows of the Commonwealth Press Union," our program coordinator emphatically advised us.

So, well before the start of the seminar at 9:30 in the morning, we all ten journalists from nine different countries -- as India was represented by two journalists that year -- gathered in the specific room of London City University and eagerly waited for the arrival of the keynote speaker. A short while later, the seminar coordinator who was a prominent professor of journalism joined us and gave us a heads-up about the seminar and the keynote speaker.

Just a few minutes before 9:30 a.m., the main speaker of the seminar entered the room declaring in a firm voice that "an editor must be simple." We, the fellows of the Commonwealth Press Union, who were also joined by another journalist from the largest Indian news agency the Press Trust of India and a journalism student from Pakistan that day, looked at one another totally confused not understanding what actually the famous British journalist meant.

He then went straight to a whiteboard affixed to the wall of the seminar room and wrote these letters - S, I, M, P, L, E -- in a vertical order. At this point, it became quite clear to us and we found that the connotation of the word he uttered while entering the seminar room was not actually simple. In fact, it was just the opposite. After that he wrote "Skilled Journalist" for S, "Intelligent Leader" for I, "Market Wise" for M, "Prudent Writer" for P, "Lively Colleague" for L and "Eager Team Member" for E.

We were all smiles learning about what his word "SIMPLE" actually stood for. We also realized that Collins English Dictionary didn't define the job of a newspaper editor adequately. Up until that day, none of us knew that the person holding the top slot of a newspaper needed to possess so many qualities. Then the London Daily Telegraph editor asked us with a smile: "How many "SIMPLE" editors do you have in your country?" First, we looked at one another, then laughed together and then answered the keynote speaker with one voice: "We don't think we have any in our country."

He told the seminar that the basic requirements of a person to become a newspaper editor were his or her superior journalistic skills and knowledge and of course the ability to write superbly and wisely. He also said that these basic requirements were not enough to be at the helm of a newspaper. A person to be a newspaper editor must also have great leadership qualities. They must have the mindset to get along well with all staff members -- especially his or her journalist colleagues -- and must be interested in working together as a member of one big team.

Back in 1988, while I was working as a visiting journalist at the Patriot Ledger newspaper, the third largest Boston-area daily, on the Quincy outskirts of the state of Massachusetts, I saw Bill Ketter, the editor of the paper, work regularly in the newsroom. One day I asked him: "Hi Bill, what are you doing here?" "Syed, I am putting together a report filed by our wire services," he replied. At that moment, he was combining reports on the same issue filed by multiple news agencies to make it one big story sitting at the empty desk of a Patriot Ledger news reporter.

In Bangladesh, I saw editors who used to come to their office only to register their presence for salary. Once in a while they read editorials written by the associate and assistant editors of the paper and barely went through any submissions that appeared on the op-ed and other pages. On rare occasions, they used to come to the newsroom -- for example on the budget night -- to say hello to the staff and never sat at a desk and edited a story. However, I also saw editors who often used to come out of their office into the newsroom during the evening peak hours and edited stories filed by reporters.

As always, many people with little or no journalistic background are currently at the helm of many Bangladeshi newspapers just because of their money or connection with the owners. On the contrary, a lot of highly skilled, well qualified and foreign educated and trained journalists of the country are staying abroad because of the lack of appropriate opportunities back home. And some journalists who are much more knowledgeable and experienced than many current editors are still living in Bangladesh. But unfortunately they are either unemployed or working as freelance journalists.

Journalism is a profession for the genuinely professional journalists. And the position of editor of a newspaper should be held only by the highly skilled, vastly experienced and best qualified journalist of a country. They must also possess all those additional qualities as listed by the famous British journalist. Others who become a newspaper editor make a mockery of a great profession.
The writer is a Toronto-based journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun and Canada's Postmedia Network

« PreviousNext »

Latest News
Most Read News
Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka.
Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone: PABX 223353467, 223353481-2; Online: 9513959; Advertisement: 9513663.
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected],   [ABOUT US]     [CONTACT US]   [AD RATE]   Developed & Maintenance by i2soft