In praise of editors

In the The end of the story – as we know it in Guardian Media Jeff Jarvis republishes the argument in his earlier blog post that The building block of journalism is no longer the article.

Single posts, videos, Wikipedia entries or search results may be new building blocks of media, but we need order atop them. … We have many tools to work with now, first and foremost the link. … Still, we need magnetic poles to gather news around and organise it. If not the article or brand or the happy coincidence of links, then what? I think that the new unit of journalism needs to be the topic. …

I want a page, a site, a something that is created, curated, edited and discussed. It will include articles. But it’s also a blog that treats a topic as an ongoing and cumulative process of learning, digging, correcting, asking, answering. It’s a wiki that keeps a snapshot of the latest knowledge and background. It’s an aggregator that provides curated and annotated links to experts, coverage from elsewhere, a mix of opinion and source material. Finally, it’s a discussion that doesn’t just blather but tries to add value. It’s collaborative and distributed and open but organised.

Sounds to me like he’s calling for the application of skills that have been rather dismissed in the deluge of news and blogs that has so unsettled news publishers and journalists and the clever algorithms that automatically calculate relevance. Those who “create, curate and edit” something more substantial, cohesive and longer-lasting than a collection of relevant news stories are known as editors and publishers. There is immense value in the (human) evaluation, ordering, categorisation and improvement of “content” (formerly known as “publishing”) and only now that the web is seen as too messy are the Jeff Jarvises realising that. Google realises it too.

2 thoughts on “In praise of editors

  1. Okay, as an editor, I’m biased, but I think this is 100% correct. Unmanaged information isn’t knowledge, it’s an unruly heap on the floor. Editors are going to become more important, not less.

  2. There are a lot of attempts to define blogs and social media, especially in comparison to traditional media. As news website have added blogs and allowed readers to comment, the lines are very blurred.

    I drawn the line at whether or not you have editor. Is there someone who is telling you what you can or cannot write about and approving your work before it is published?

    That editorial and publishing control is the key line that separates “news” from the unwashed masses of bloggers and social media.

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