What Editors Should Look for in Writers

By Jack Limpert

When I became a magazine editor, I had no clue what to look for in a writer. As time went on, I began to think about left brain-right brain types of writers–left brain types being better at logic and analysis, right brain better at imagination and creativity. The split seemed to play out most noticeably with art directors–we went through lots of them and it seemed that we’d go from one that was creative and disorganized to another that was well-organized and not very interesting.

Editors Working With Writers—The Power of Mutual Enthusiasm

By Jack Limpert

Bill O’Sullivan recently had five tips for editors on working with writers, and this was my favorite:

2. A compliment goes a long way. After a session of questions, suggestions, and proposed fixes, an  editor might expect to hear the writer say, “I’ll get right on it.” But at least as often the response is “Was there anything you liked about the piece?” It’s amazing how well “nice job” can grease the wheels—better yet, pick out something more specific: maybe the writer’s knack for catchy subheads or an overall strong structure. I’ve received heartfelt thank-you notes for something as simple as that. And because it’s easy to forget, I always make sure to lead with the compliment.”

An Editor Who Can Make a Magazine Truly Great?

By Jack Limpert

Capital New York has a story on the search for a new editor for the New York Times Magazine. The piece, by Matthew Lynch and Joe Pompeo, tries to build some drama—ads have been down a little, but mostly because T, a sister Sunday magazine at the Times, is doing better, and the Times is doing more magazine-style stories.

They toss out a few names—Lauren Kern, Joel Lovell, Bruce Headlam, Sam Sifton, Nicholas Thompson, James Bennet, Jodi Kantor—but the main point of the story comes at the end: “What the magazine needs at the moment… is the very thing that has always made the great magazines truly great: An editor who can infuse the whole package with his or her point of view.”

Anybody Here Have a Really Good Bullshit Detector?

By Jack Limpert

The provocative back-and-forth on Sunday between Bill Keller of the New York Times and Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer-journalist who has $250 million in backing to start a so-called activist  journalistic venture, included these comments from Greenwald about editors:

We absolutely believe that strong, experienced editors are vital to good journalism, and intend to have plenty of those. Editors are needed to ensure the highest level of factual accuracy, to verify key claims, and to help journalists make choices that avoid harm to innocents.

Editing a New Magazine? What Kind of Stories Are You Going to Do?

By Jack Limpert

Politico, the DC-based website and newspaper that covers politics and government, is starting a glossy magazine this fall—it’ll come out six times a year and be edited by Susan Glasser, who appeared this morning on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” to promote it.

In a short segment on “The Rebirth of Longform Journalism,” the show’s host, Frank Sesno, first asked Glasser about her plans for the new magazine and she said she wanted it to be something “truly original.”

But, he asked, what kind of stories? Glasser said it would be “more ambitious journalism.”

Can a Great Editor Tell You How to be a Good Editor?

By Jack Limpert

Harold Hayes edited Esquire from 1964 to 1973, creating a magazine that was called “the center of  the new journalism.” To those of us who went into journalism in the 1960s Hayes was the most creative and influential editor of them all. After Hayes died in 1989, Tom Wolfe told the New York Times, “Under him, Esquire was the red-hot center of magazine journalism. There was such excitement about experimenting in nonfiction. It made people want to extend themselves for Harold.”

The Only Friend an Editor Needs

By Jack Limpert

Danny’s face has turned white from old age but every morning he’s still ready to go. We walk a block down the street to a big park. We go behind the tennis courts and kids’ play area to an open field that has a baseball diamond and enough space for football and soccer. Danny barks at the planes heading west after taking off from Reagan National and I look at the birds and sometimes study the cloud formations. Then on the way home we walk through the woods—in the old days he chased squirrels. I sometimes find wildflowers and bring a few home. After the walk, I always was ready for a good day as an editor.

Nine Things Good Copyeditors Do*

By Bill O’Sullivan  

Copyeditors do more than fix grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They solve problems every hour of every day and plant the flag for good English and clear writing—a worthy goal in the age of emoticons and Twitter shorthand. They save writers and the publications they work for from embarrassment.

A copyeditor asks questions and makes suggestions that, for whatever reason during the editing process, no matter how good the assigning editors are, never got asked or suggested: What do you mean? Who is this person ID’d by only a last name? That last sentence doesn’t add much—it might be stronger to end with the previous one. This sounds choppy. Oh, and nice lede.

Five Ways Editors Are Driven Crazy by Lawyers

By Jack Limpert

1. A lawsuit is a problem you can’t make go away. Almost all problems faced by editors can be dealt with fairly quickly—not necessarily painlessly but they can be dealt with–but a lawsuit can go on about as long as the plaintiff wants it to go on. We’re talking a couple of years.

2. Once a lawsuit is filed, a legal process called discovery begins. They can ask you for answers to interrogatories (written questions), they can ask for documents, they can ask that depositions (oral questioning under oath) be taken of you, the writer, or anyone who might know something.

Becoming an Editor: Maybe It Was Because I Had a Law Degree

By Richard Babcock

I wanted to be a writer because that’s where the glory is, but at the mid-sized newspaper where I started out, I kept getting pushed into editing. I don’t think it was simply because my sentences were unimpressive. Rather, the higher-ups were acting on the dubious logic that because I had a law degree, I must know useful “things”—what sort of things was never quite clear, but reason suggested that I must have learned something useful in that expensive three-year professional education. No amount of argument (or malfeasance) would dissuade the bosses, so I became an editor.