Do newspapers really need editors?

Req: E

Alan Mutter’s blog post Sunday has prompted a lot of discussion about that question during the past few days.

Mutter wrote:

Now that pending layoffs at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have made newsroom cutbacks all but unanimous, some managers eager to maximize the feet on the street at their newspapers are wondering if they really need all those editors.

“How many people have to read a story before it goes in the paper?” asked a senior editor at a major metropolitan daily who is struggling to sustain the quality of his news report in an era of shrinking resources. “If we have to economize, the editing process is the place. Why do we have all these people processing stories after a reporter writes it? They are not producing anything that will get us traffic on the web.”

This question is bound to provoke spirited discussion in every newsroom where it is broached.

[Continue reading Can newspapers afford editors?]

In a follow-up post, he reported that the vast majority of his readers disagreed with him.

More than three-quarters of the readers of this blog think two or more people should edit an article before it goes in the newspaper, according to the poll asking how many editors it takes to vet a story.

Of the more than 400 respondents to the survey as of this evening, 55.2% favored two editors per story, 21.9% advocated three or more editors per story, 20.4% said a single editor was sufficient and a mere 2.5% said reporters didn’t need anyone looking over their shoulders. So, those favoring lots of “eyes” on a story handily carried the vote.

[Continue reading The Eyes Have It]

It’s an interesting question, probably asked to provoke thoughtful reaction rather than to be taken as a recommendation. Newspapers obviously benefit from having editors read news stories before they get into print. Quality and reliability set newspaper apart from blogs as much as the volume of information they offer. But editors do come at a price, and it’s worth asking if and how newspapers should continue to pay that price.

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This blog is maintained by Dr. Matthew M. Reavy as a service to journalism students at the University of Scranton.

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