Michael Kinsley: “Two very different groups of people are responsible for the words that fill the world’s magazines and newspapers.”

From an article, Expertise in Journalism: Factors Shaping a Cognitive and Culturally Elite Profession, by Kaja Perina, editor of Psychology Today, and Jonathan Wai, of the University of Arkansas:

Michael Kinsley noted that “two very different groups of people are responsible for the words that fill the world’s magazines and newspapers. There are the writers, who produce prose, and the editors, who do their best to wreck it.”

Though their incentives may be somewhat different, they ultimately must work together to produce the information that we read. The finding that staff writers tend to be more highly educated and cognitively able than staff editors among two of the most selective and influential newspapers is intriguing but ambiguous.

Nonetheless, it is tempting to invoke Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 fox vs. hedgehog distinction in terms of editorial vs. writerly thought style: Editors are foxes who know many things and writers are hedgehogs who focus on one important thing, their domain, or beat. The best journalists must in a real sense be both, as they are generalists who absorb a range of information in domains in which they often lack formal schooling, and specialists who go deep to execute a story

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