The Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies a senior editor as a managing editor. Usually the managing editor works for a magazine or newspaper publisher or for a TV network. They are directly responsible of their organization’s news department and the quality and accuracy of the newsroom’s output and also for its revenue generation. A senior editorial role might also be termed editor in chief. According to the Bureau, as of May 2010 top editors earned annual salaries of $96,800.
The first step in becoming a senior editor is understanding that skills that the job demands. The managing editor’s role is essentially that of a chief operations officer and requires managing the strategic initiatives for her organization, including leading the transition from traditional print media to online media. She also has to be a sales manager, where she’s charged with improving advertising and other revenue streams. Additionally, she’s a people manager, hiring, firing, resolving conflict and managing team performance. Finally, she has to know media law, because she’ll have ultimate responsibility in running contentious stories.
The second step to landing a role as a senior editor is to gain experience, particularly in the area of sales. Working with your organization’s sales team provides an understanding of its revenue models. Also, because many media businesses are trying to make their online transitions generate healthy revenue streams, you need to understand digital media and have ideas on how to make it profitable.
Step three is to demonstrate people management skills. If you are already in an editorial role then you will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate these skills. You will have to give feedback to journalists or production staff on performance, or have been involved in hiring and mentoring new team members. The aim in performance management is giving feedback to staff when necessary but also maintaining morale and getting the most out of your team.
Senior editors need to show news sense, an innate quality that allows him to spot a great story. You may not have to break all the winning stories in the news room but you need to show that you were instrumental in getting them out. A good knowledge of media law and sound judgment on whether or not sources are reliable are also essential to news sense.
Self branding and promotion are critical to becoming a senior editor. Make the powers-that-be aware of your ambitions, your talent and your experience. If you want the top job in the newsroom you need to be exceptional. At a junior level this means showing that you’re a problem solver and adding so much value to the operation that you’re indispensable. At a more senior level you need to convince the owners not only that the newsroom will be safe in your hands, but it will thrive.
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