A junior editor generally writes less than a more senior editorial staff member at a magazine, newspaper or website, typically helping smooth the flow of the editorial process. Plan on plenty of grunt work along with some interesting assignments if you take a gig as a junior editor. There’s no universally accepted definition of a junior editor, so it’s important to understand the various roles of editors to evaluate how a junior editor job you are considering will affect your career development and chances for future editorial jobs.
Junior editors’ jobs vary based on the editors they support. Many people mistake an editor for someone who proofreads copy written by a professional writer. Editing goes far beyond correcting grammar and spelling errors. Editors help plan annual editorial calendars, issue content and create special sections. They perform research, fact check, suggest content additions or changes, conduct interviews and write stories from start to finish. Some editors write few, if any stories as part of their job description, while others primarily write stories. A managing editor manages the editorial traffic, assigning articles, giving deadlines, setting pay, soliciting artwork and tracking progress. A senior editor primarily writes features and department pieces, often covering one or two specialty areas. A copy or desk editor improves the work of other writers via suggestions for additions, restructuring or correcting facts, grammar and overall writing.
Junior editors often support one or more senior-level editorial people. This might include conducting research a senior writer can use for a story she’s developing, conducting interviews with sources a writer wants to use, performing fact-checking after a story is complete or doing simple editing on stories. Junior editors often do more line editing than story editing. Line editing refers to making simple corrections to copy line by line, while story editing refers to improving the organization, structure and flow of an article.
Junior editors often write simple, short news pieces, stories and articles. This can include repurposing information from press releases or writing product reviews. They often summarize news events, such as a press conference or new legislation, or report on trade shows, groundbreakings, sporting events or other activities that require summaries rather than original research and analysis. A junior editor might write sidebars to senior writers’ feature articles. A sidebar is a short item that’s related to a main story. For example, if a senior editor at a local newspaper writes a feature on the new executive director of the town’s animal shelter, a junior editor might write a short piece on the animal shelter consisting of a few facts about the organization.
Climbing the Ladder
With the advent of Internet writing, you have opportunities to strut your stuff in front of your boss in ways your parents and grandparents never dreamed of. If you find yourself writing very little in a junior editor position, get experience and exposure by writing your own blog, donating feature articles to nonprofit websites or writing an ebook you self-publish. Choose topics and formats that mirror those you want to pursue at your job and let your editors see your work and the public’s reaction to it. Be careful what you put on the Internet -- it can stay there for years, errors and all. Consider writing under a pen name anytime you sell or donate editorial you don’t control.
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