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Issue for July 2017

The Editor's Role as Manager

Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 1:04 PM

A new book by Howard Rauch reinforces the tenets of effective editorial management.

By William Dunkerley

Being a manager is not always at the forefront of our minds as we churn out issue after issue. Sure, we make assignments and manage deadlines. But there is a larger dimension to editorial management than just that.

A lot of editors I know give short shrift to their greater managerial role. Most did not come into editorial work from a management background. More common is the person who became an editor as an extension of his or her expertise in the field covered by a publication. Others came with an academic background in journalism or English. Not many MBAs come out of school and set their sights on editorial management.

I got to thinking about this matter while reading a new book titled Get Serious about Editorial Management. It's written by Howard Rauch, an Editors Only contributor and a distinguished consultant in the editorial field.

He takes up an issue that's really important right now. Our whole industry is facing challenges that previous generations of editors never could have dreamed of (or perhaps nightmared about)!

Readers now prefer to consume information in radically different ways, and they are evolving at a rapid pace. This is no time to ignore our essential role as editorial managers. Instead that duty needs to gain prominence.

One chapter in Rauch's book deals with common management errors. I'd like to share with you some of what he says.

The Chronically Late Editor

One of Rauch's points is about the procrastinator/perfectionist syndrome. You know, it's the editor who turns out excellent work but is often late because he finds it hard to stop polishing his article. Rauch asks, "Do you overlook weaknesses because of the strengths?" That's quite a dilemma, but it shouldn't be ignored.

Rauch suggests that the problem itself should be headed off back in the hiring process. He writes, "The best defense you have is a set of quantitative standards before you begin hiring. Articulate these standards when screening all editorial applicants, repeat the discussion during each new editor's orientation, and support all this with written job descriptions that include quantitative expectations."

Staff Confrontations

Dovetailing with the matter of chronic lateness is the occasional need to confront a staff member for that or any other kind of problem. That may be the last thing you want to do when struggling to make progress toward deadlines. Failing to deal with the problem won't likely make it go away, however. In fact, it's best to deal with it in a timely way.

Rauch advises, "Effective criticism must be scheduled closely on the heels of the infraction -- not several weeks or months later, when the next official performance review is scheduled."

Often, however, confronting personnel problems only occurs during an annual salary review, Rauch laments. What's even worse, he adds, is "when the staffer is not hearing this directly from the boss, but from the human resources personnel."

Says Who There's a Problem?

Speaking of confronting a staff member with a problem, what do you do if she disputes your contention? Rauch states plainly that "written records are essential to staff improvement and oversight."

There's a managerial shortcoming Rauch identifies in this regard: "Many supervising editors still prefer to rely on verbal feedback as a way to cure an errant staff member." He admonishes, "Don't fall into this trap!"

Rauch suggests that you "must convince a problem staff member that you are carefully documenting performance shortfalls in meeting deadlines and productivity levels as well as recording lateness and absence patterns." In other words, you've got to let him know that accountability is in place.

Rauch concludes, "If you consistently rewrite an editor's work, that editor should be furnished with 'before' and 'after' versions of each manuscript. An accompanying memo should spell out why the changes were made."

Tips Galore

Rauch's book is packed with similarly practical and effective ways of pursuing your role as an editorial manager.

The book has fourteen chapters:

--Use Data to Enhance Editorial Performance
--Twelve Common Management Errors
--Commit to In-House Training
--Quantitative Factors Improve Staff Reviews
--Fourteen Causes of Editorial Burnout
--Fix Your Editorial Marketing Arsenal
--How to Assess Editorial Superiority
--Compete with Authority
--Make the Most of Trade Shows
--Go All Out for Debut Issues
--Frequent Research Must Be a Priority
--Overcoming Sponsored Content Hurdles
--Five Challenges to Stellar Online News
--Twelve Ethical Issues You Must Address

An appendix is also included with tips for better editorial content.

Get Serious about Editorial Management contains 132 pages in a 5 x 8 format and is available for purchase on Amazon.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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Shifting Responsibility -- Part II

Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Components of my decision-making process.

By Peter P. Jacobi

To continue my discussion of what I and that Indiana University class of budding music writers discussed when I visited the class taught by a highly respected Bach scholar and nifty writer, Professor Daniel Melamed, I should expand on that list of important factors in a review that I gave you and from which a music critic (or call me a reviewer, I care not what the ID) should choose the ones most needed for a particular assignment. The choices, as you well know, will differ; choices of inclusions and exclusions must differ for always shifting reasons in any story that we write and/or edit.

Details of Who, Why, and What

Again, we need to consider the who that is getting the finished product, the ages of your receivers, their social and economic backgrounds, their education, the financial levels they exist on and with, the interests that bring your product and them together, and in what sort of chosen publication: newsletter, newspaper, daily, weekly, magazine (consumer, trade, academic journal), website, radio, television, or some other sort of social medium.

Are we involved in a news story straight and narrow; a publicity release required to promote; a feature story stressing human interest; an educational piece designed to teach the readers about something or other; an opinion piece striving to make a point, to exploit a pint of views; a sermon-like essay created to cause contemplation, to cause reflection?

The coverage and content differ. The approach differs. The use of language differs. The structural devices differ. The editorial gimmicks differ. These may not be "Editors Only" tasks, since writers face these issues slam-bang with every part being prepared for publication or presentation or sweeping into the electronic stratosphere. But it is the editor -- more than any other contributing expert in the process of communicating messages of information or salesmanship or opinion building or inspiring or teaching or entertaining or what have you -- that holds the primary responsibility for treating the editorial product properly, efficiently, and most attractively.

Important Reasons

I consider a part of my decision-making when I prepare for, cover, analyze, and write a review which to involve in the process and then which to include and exclude, emphasize or de-emphasize. They are, alphabetically: allegiance to art, allegiance to artist, allegiance to audience, analysis, community boosterism versus welfare of community, consumerism, context, description, education, elucidation, entertainment, history, impression, institutional goals, interpretation, intimate knowledge, judgment, narration, observation, opinion, and reportage.

Some are self-explanatory, but let me say something about each item on the list, to make sure you're benefiting from this lesson and that your project will benefit from a making-sure sentence or so of explaining. Explanation (exposition) is a critically important part of writing.

Allegiance to Art and/or Artist

Is a primary goal to promote/praise/deliver information about, in my case, the music or musicians; in your case whatever the person or object or institution or cause you're dealing with? Does that need to be the focus of coverage and in what form you best provide the coverage?

Allegiance to Audience

A primary goal of virtually all we do is to serve our audience, in my case the audience that attends (in a preview piece) or attended (in a review) or might purchase a recording of; in your case, again, whether it's the subject matter you're striving to explain or promote or the reader/listener most important to be served.

Analysis

Does what you're dealing with require explanation, to be made clear for understanding?

Community Boosterism versus Community Welfare

This might be just a matter of choosing the words and/or that information. I tend to avoid boosterism, acts of circus nature. I prefer to focus on how what I'm writing reinforces what I believe to be the benefits of the community that can result from what I've experienced.

Context

What in the way of backgrounding does your public need to better grasp the meaning and/or importance of the subject matter?

Description

I need to describe what I've experienced or, in a preview, am about to; it's the most difficult task, to translate sound into words; you face your own difficulties in describing, but some sort of describing you most likely will have to do.

Education

My readers need educating, different ones for different events; they need backgrounding. I suspect that's part of your job, too.

I've got more "Important Reasons" to present, and they will appear in the concluding part of this series next issue.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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The Fog Index

Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 1:03 PM

Assessing the readability of a Mashable.com excerpt.

This month's Fog Index sample text comes from a July 19 article on Mashable.com ("Serving Up Technology in the Public's Interest-Hard, but Worth It" by Dipayan Ghosh). Longer words are italicized for reference.

Note: This month, we will show our work in multiple phases -- our first attempt followed by our second. Editing is often a multiphase process, and we don't always get it right on the first try.

"Over the next year and beyond, we'll be working to shape a novel sector that'll bring the top technologists from around the nation to work on projects that directly aim to do good for society. The public sector needs innovation -- whether to solve rural connectivity challenges, to spark interest in young people to study engineering and computer science, or to build the next major civic tech app. I am excited to help initiate a new project here around algorithmic discrimination, and in the meantime, collaborate with and support a high-powered group of peers who will tackle the nation's most gripping social challenges."

Word count: 102 words
Average sentence length: 34 words (35, 32, 35)
Words with 3+ syllables: 12 percent (12/102 words)
Fog Index: (34+12)*.4 = 18 (18.4, no rounding)

We have some Fog to cut through here. As many of you know by now, we're looking for a score below 12. So we need to cut the fog by more than a third to fall within ideal range. At a glance, we see that sentence length is the key issue in this sample. Let's see if we can rework the text into shorter sentences.

Attempt 1

"Over the next year and beyond, we'll be shaping a novel sector that'll bring the top technologists from around the nation to work on projects that aim to help society directly. The public sector needs innovation -- whether to solve rural connectivity challenges, to spark interest in young people to study engineering and computer science, or to build the next major civic tech app. I am excited to help initiate a new project here around algorithmic discrimination. In the meantime, I will collaborate with and support a high-powered group of peers who will tackle the nation's most gripping social challenges."

Word count: 99 words
Average sentence length: 25 words (31, 32, 13, 23)
Words with 3+ syllables: 12 percent (12/99 words)
Fog Index: (25+12)*.4 = 14 (14.8, no rounding)

This attempt cut the Fog by 4 points, a notable change. But we still need to reduce the score by 3 points for optimal readability. We didn't eliminate any longer words, but we did cut sentence length by 9 points. What should we do to get the rest of the way there?

Attempt 2

"Over the next year and beyond, we'll be shaping a novel sector that'll bring top technologists from around the nation to work on projects that aim to help people directly. The public sector needs innovation. We need to solve rural connectivity challenges, to get young people to study engineering and computer science, or to build the next major civic tech app. I am excited to help launch a new project here around algorithmic discrimination. In the meantime, I will team up with and support a high-powered group of peers who will tackle the nation's most gripping social challenges."

Word count: 98 words
Average sentence length: 20 words (30, 5, 26, 13, 24)
Words with 3+ syllables: 8 percent (8/98 words)
Fog Index: (20+8)*.4 = 11 (11.2, no rounding)

We had to get a little more aggressive this round, splitting up yet another sentence to bring down average sentence length by 5 points. We also eliminated 4 longer words to bring down the percentage of longer words by 4. Overall, our multiphase edit shaved 7 points from the original Fog Index.

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Editorial and Sales: A Tentative Alliance?

Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 1:02 PM

In the news: How one digital media company is redefining traditional interdepartmental relationships.

Bauer Xcel Media US, which oversees online operations for various magazine brands including InTouch Weekly and Woman's World, is bending traditional media dynamics to maximize profitability. The company, writes Mike Shields of BusinessInsider.com, "encourages its editorial and sales teams to share intel." This tearing down of longstanding interdepartmental walls establishes could threaten an editorial team's independence in choosing what to cover and how to cover it.

But, as Shields notes, magazine brands continue to struggle with profitability, and a collegial atmosphere between editorial and sales could help editors home in on content that will pay off in the long run. At Bauer Xcel Media, this approach is changing the way their editors work and expanding their skill sets. Shields writes, "Each piece of content gets a 'monetization score' which editors and sales teams use to judge whether an article or video or photo is likely to pay out. Editors are also well versed in how platforms like Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP are resonating with readers, and paying advertisers."

Read the full article here.

Also Notable

Magazine Editor Confessions

On Thursday, Lucia Moses of Digiday.com published confessions of a magazine editor, headlined. "'It's a mix of fear, frustration,'" reads the headline. The article is a Q&A with an anonymous magazine editor about struggles at an anonymous magazine brand. The interview hits hard right out of the gate as the editor reports, "The fear is that one day it's just going to end, and you put out good work every day and someone three floors up might decide to sell off your title. I don't think the management really knows what it's doing." Read the full interview here.

Measuring Reader Attention

Last week, the staff at Folio: published an infographic showing where readers are directing their attention. The graphic highlights what readers are consuming and how editors and publishers are engaging them. Citing Statista, the first frame of the graphic tells us that readers spend 15 minutes per day reading magazines next year (down 3 minutes from 2010). Farther down, another frame tells us that 37 percent of marketers "plan to add messaging apps as a distribution channel in the next year." See the full graphic here.

More Changes at Time Inc.

Time Inc. continues in its trajectory away from print and toward digital. Tanya Dua of BusinessInsider.com reports that the publisher is looking to sell three magazine brands: Coastal Living, Sunset, and Golf. Dua also shares a sample internal memo similar to what leadership sends out when an asset goes up for sale. Read the article here.

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