Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Don’t look at me — it’s on you, now

By · Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

A relationship with benefits.

That’s how we used to define the mutually attractive agreement between reporters and editors. A reporter would tell a source: “I have to ask this question. My editor will want to know.” And an editor was happy to be blamed because, in all likelihood, the question was a legitimate one that would end up being answered.

Everyone benefited, especially the audience.

Dwindling are the days when that’s the case.

With fewer editors in newsrooms, reporters are losing the partners who have had their backs. It’s all on them.

That’s why it is comforting to watch young reporters embrace the essence of what it takes to be a good editor — an advocate for accuracy and for the audience. Editors follow three key steps:

  1. Check everything
  2. Know your resources and use them
  3. Ask the reporter, who is the primary person “in the know” when questions arise about a story

Oh, wait, no … that’s the one key step that is out of step when a reporter takes on the role of editor. There’s no one else to ask.

That’s a shame, in one sense. And it’s a loss for anyone who has ever enjoyed that mutually beneficial relationship of reporter and editor.

Up-and-coming reporters: You don’t know what you’re missing. And that’s a shame, too.

Do a good job, and you’ll never know.

But fail as an editor, and you can be sure that editors will be back.

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