Lillian Ross on How Editors Can Help Writers

A helpful editor should have the following qualities:

Understanding of and sympathy for writers.

The editorial talent to recognize and appreciate journalistic and literary talent.

An openness to all kinds of such talent.

Confidence and strength in his own judgment.

Resistance to fads and fakery in publishing.

Resistance to corruption and opportunism, to exhortations from people, including writers and other editors, who are concerned with “popularity” and “the market.”

Moral and mental strength, and the physical strength to sustain these.

Energy and resourcefulness in helping writers discover what they should write about.

Literally unlimited patience with selfishness and egotism.

The generosity and character required to give away his own creativity and pour it into a group of greedy and usually ungrateful writers.

This kind of editor is a rarity. If you’re lucky, you may find one.

Avoid the following kind of editor: one who does not like writers.

—From Reporting, a 1964 book by Lillian Ross, a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker. She died September 20, 2017, at the age of 99.

Coming up: A post about a recent journalism conference where writers talked about what they want from editors.

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