The Most Important Thing an Editor Does

By Jack Limpert

Gawker Media, an online media company, has named  John Cook as interim executive editor and Hamilton Nolan as interim deputy editor following a staff exodus…
—July 31 news reports

That’s the Hamilton Nolan who a year ago wrote a Gawker piece “Against Editors.” It argued that (1) there are too many editors, (2) too many writers are forced to become editors to make decent money, (3) being an editor is easier than being a writer, (4) writers are more important than editors.

Points one and two are rarely true, point three is sometimes true, point four is always true.

What Nolan ignored is the most important thing an editor does. At the Washingtonian, we were able to get 110,000 people to subscribe to the magazine and another 40,000 to buy it each month on the newsstand. The subscribers and newsstand buyers paid $4 million a year to read the magazine. Advertisers kicked in another $10 million a year.

As an editor, I had $2 million a year of that money to spend on writers and editors. Lots of good writing and editing jobs.

There were headaches in being an editor—Ben Bradlee said the hardest part of his job as an editor was damage control. There also is a lot of joy: Finding good writers, encouraging them to do their best work, publishing great stories.

The most important thing:

An editor finds good writers and gathers them together in a way that readers will pay to read them.

Good luck, Hamilton Nolan—may you do your job as an editor so well that you create more good jobs for writers.

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