Guardian column: Do we need editors?

This week’s Guardian column asks whether editors are a luxury we can afford. (There’s a separate version online here where comments can and I suspect will be made.)

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  • Tom B.

    Jeff, great column. I was always predisposed to think that editors are necessary to cut down and give form to the mass of information out there, but never really asked myself whether the community can do it themselves.

    Question for you though, is “editor” the right word in your model? I was only in journalism a short while, but the editor always seemed to me like a person who cut my pieces down or changed it to a form and style that fit the expectations of our publication.

    This next generation of editors should not only synthesize, but expand on bodies of work. They should translate it into other forms long and short, video and audio, so it reaches a broader audience. The community, theoretically, will have natural “editors” among them.

    I guess I just don’t like the word. Not sure producer fits either, so what do you get when you combine an editor and producer in an online media world? A synthesizer, a transformer, a storyteller?

    Curious to your thoughts.

  • WHD2

    Phelps did not win the Olympic Butterfly 100 meter final. Milorad Cavic of Serbia won the event and after the race stated that he had won the event. After the race Phelps also stated that he thought he had lost. Then later under pressure from the Serbian government, a U.S. proxy/puppet regime he withdrew his complaint. His coach said that he would launch a protest. Serbia also “launched a protest” which they later also withdrew. The FINA executive Director, Cornel Marculescu, stated that FINA would not permit the release of the footage by Omega the official timekeeper for the Beijing Games of the finish under the phony hard-sell pretext: “We are not going to distribute the footage. We are not doing THESE KINDS OF THINGS. (!) EVERYTHING IS GOOD. (!?) What are you going to do with the footage? See what the Serbians already saw? It is clarified for us beyond any doubt. He’s the winner in any way. (?) He’s the winner no doubt. Even if you could see the pictures, I don’t know how you could use them.” And Cavic the actual winner stated: “If you ask me, it should be accepted and we should move on. I’ve accepted defeat, and there’s nothing wrong with losing to the greatest swimmer there has ever been.” (!?)(New York Times, August 17, 2008) Parentheses added.

    The event was apparently also not shown LIVE. It was on a time delay despite the LIVE claim on the TV screen. Within seconds of the finish which showed Phelps in the water after the race he was being interviewed on the tarmac! Not credible! It is very easy to rig such an event if the race is that close for which a software program can be easily written. The U.S. government can and does routinely hack computers of their adversaries and send computer viruses which will completely destroy their hard drives, for example, and more as this writer has experienced. The bottom line was that unless Cavic won by a clear visible margin he would lose in a very close race even if he actually won. The 2 electronic touch pads on the walls of the pool can be reversed in their polarity in a digital twinkling, so that even if Cavic touched the wall first it would simply register as Phelps touching the wall. Because if you look closely in that part of the replay which was permitted directly after the race it is quite clear that is exactly what happened. Phelps lost! And he knew that he lost! But he accepted the false victory!

    But both Serbia and the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) went along with the fraudulent Phelps’ victory in the 100 meter Fly because of political pressure from the United States. China was indubitably blackmailed and threatened that unless they went along with the crime the U.S. would push the age issue with the clearly underage Chinese girl gymnasts and take away their Olympic Team gold medal. Humiliation the Chinese did not want to accept! This is also the reason that the PRC went along with the U.S. all around victory in girls’ gymnastics which was accomplished by U.S. puppet judges grossly inflating the level of difficulty and execution by the U.S. and doing the reverse and chiseling big-time the level of difficulty and the execution of the vastly superior Chinese girl gymnasts. Shawn Johnson for example, was permitted to usurp the all-around title after putting in very simple routines in the uneven bars and balance beam. Even in the floor exercise Johnson’s level of difficulty and execution were pumped up like a balloon. This modus operandi occurred over and over! The Serbian government is a U.S. puppet/virtual proxy state which was installed after the U.S. division of Yugoslavia, a country where everyone got along. Serbia is a U.S. puppet just like the government of Georgia, which was incidentally authorized and directed by the U.S. (by Kindasleezy Rice, documented by her own statements to also be Bush’s mistress) to invade the independent area of South Ossetia while the world was distracted by the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The U.S. and so-called “Israel” had supplied virtually all of Serbia’s military and the U.S. admitted to having 2000 military “advisors” and “trainees” in Georgia. Russia Today TV initially reported that “American mercenaries (all U.S. military personnel today “volunteers” a euphemism for mercenaries) accompanied the invading force into South Ossetia. There the objective is to try to weaken Russia by media and UN focus only on Russia’s response (to the U.S./Georgia invasion of South Ossetia) in sending its forces into Georgia as one more step to try to eventually overthrow the Russian government and steal Russia’s natural resources just like the U.S. is doing in Iraq. It looks like a replay of 1940 with the NAZIS on the border of the USSR ready to invade with the Polish “missile defense” missile interceptors and the Czech radar about to be built. The Olympics are a highly political event and today that is true in spades. Ninety-five percent of New Yorkers agree that we need a new system based on human need not private profit. Capitalism offers a world with no future.

  • http://medianation.blogspot.com/2008/08/where-does-rupert-get-his-ideas.html Dan Kennedy

    Jeff: Maybe not as many editors. But you certainly need them for long investigative pieces. (Oh, right. We’re not going to do them anymore, either.) And surely a good editor can spot potential libel. One lawsuit prevented equals five years’ worth of an editor’s salary, I’d say.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    There seems to be a bit of a flap over Kristol’s column in today’s Times. Apparently he stated (again) something that wasn’t true.

    The Times claims not to “edit” op-eds, but after his untruth was pointed out (in the blogosphere) the Times updated the column in the online version.

    Shades of Pravda and the disappearing reviewing stand officials.
    Think Progress has the details:
    http://thinkprogress.org/2008/08/18/kristol-mistake-column/

    So, then, exactly what is the function of editors?

  • http://powazek.com Derek Powazek

    Fantastic column, Jeff. When I talk to organizations about the power of online community and social media, invariably someone asks this question. Usually it’s an editor afraid of losing their job. My advice is the same as yours: relearn your job. Editors that can’t change from top-down authoritarians will have fewer and fewer places to work. But an editor who can rally the troops, lead online communities, and participate in collaborative story creation will become valuable indeed. This is not the kind of editing they teach in j-school now, nor is it the kind of editing that many newsrooms practice. But we both know the change is upon us. In a world of abundance, curators become more important, not less. Evolve or die.

  • http://editor.blogspot.com Howard Weaver

    I wonder if you might consider another useful purpose editors can serve: in saving writers from spouting off without doing any research or speaking intemperately in the heat of the moment?

    One such example might have been your blistering comments about Philadelphia’s online memo, in which you said management was killing the paper and advised staffers and readers to leave.

    An editor might have suggested that you check with them before calling them idiots. The facts that emerged after that initial memo was posted were far more nuanced, as I recall.

  • http://editor.blogspot.com Howard Weaver

    P.S. I meant to disclose that I have spent most of my adult life as an editor. As you might guess, that influences my opinion about their utility.

  • http://medianation.blogspot.com/2008/08/where-does-rupert-get-his-ideas.html Dan Kennedy

    Derek: Editors who can fix singular/plural disagreements have value, too.

  • http://TheNumerati.net steve baker

    Jeff, I think editors have value, for many of the reasons mentioned above. But as a career choice, I’d steer clear of it.

  • http://powazek.com Derek Powazek

    Any “editor” that can look at an issue this large, this important, and respond with snide copyediting is exactly the kind of editor that’s going to need a new line of work soon.

    Forrest, trees, etc.

  • http://medianation.blogspot.com/2008/08/where-does-rupert-get-his-ideas.html Dan Kennedy

    Derek: I’ve responded at slightly greater length here. If you think you can get away without editors for anything other than blog posts and short, breaking-news stories, well, you need to think again.

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  • http://powazek.com Derek Powazek

    Dan: Did you even read Jeff’s piece? Did you read my comment? We’re all talking about how IMPORTANT editors are. It’s just that their job requirements are changing.

  • http://powazek.com Derek Powazek

    In case you missed it, here’s Jeff’s conclusion:

    “Editors are a luxury we must afford. But as their jobs change, so will their character. Editors will become gentle coaches whose job it is to look for the good in the world of the web. They’ll have to be nicer. Based on that, some may still choose to impale themselves.”

    Maybe “niceness” is the quality that Dan is so afraid of.

  • http://medianation.blogspot.com/2008/08/where-does-rupert-get-his-ideas.html Dan Kennedy

    Of course I read it. And I partly agree with Jeff. But we need editors who can edit, too — and I don’t mean just copy editing, though that’s important. I’m talking about leadership, the ability to find holes in stories and suggest ways to fill them, being ahead of the curve on what ought to be covered — all that good stuff. And, yes, inspire the troops. There are some good editors who are tyrants. But the great ones are nice.

    Frankly, we also need to stop relentlessly beating up on older forms of journalism simply because the economic base is imploding. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and National Public Radio have a larger audience than they ever had, and those are all rigorously edited in the old-fashioned sense of the term. Evolve or die? The Times and the Post have evolved quite a bit, and they’re still dying, even as they pull in more readers than ever.

    NPR may be proof that what you really need isn’t someone to curate the conversation (although that’s not a bad idea), but, rather, a sugar daddy. Or sugar mommy. Thank you, Joan Kroc.

  • http://medianation.blogspot.com/2008/08/where-does-rupert-get-his-ideas.html Dan Kennedy

    And BTW, just heard Jeff talking about investigative reporting on “On the Media.” Good stuff.

  • http://powazek.com Derek Powazek

    I think the conversation is not helped by polarizing each other’s opinions. I didn’t see anything in Jeff’s column about “editors becoming obsolete” as you said on your site. Instead, I saw a nuanced take on a changing institution.

    *I* certainly never said that the traditional stuff of editing is obsolete. I think it’s more important than ever, actually. But there are new skills that are going to be required, too, and the successful editors are going to be the ones who figure out how to be a leader not just in the newsroom, but online as well.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    No, Howard, I stand by my statement: to even talk about preservation and protection as a strategy is suicide. I’ll be as brash as ever. And I can say that because I don’t have no stinking editor. ;-)

  • http://diaryofawordsmith.blogspot.com/ Wordsmith_for_Hire

    Jeff said: And I can say that because I don’t have no stinking editor.

    And with that one sentence you proved that you need one. Two negatives do not make a positive. And besides, whether an editor smells or not is irrelevant to whether they can do their job well. ;)

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  • http://readg.blogspot.com Will Pollard

    I don’t think there is enough study of how citizen journalism exists at OhmyNews. The investment is in professional editors to factcheck, rewrite, and offer guidance. I have sent in stories for the English site.

    On this model, editors are not vanishing but are crucial. The journalism is a process of citizen reporters plus professional editors.

    By the way, I realise you are not responsible for all the Guardian content but do you find the supposed Citizen Journalist piece funny? I think it is so inaccurate that it is just a drag. But maybe it helps some proper journalists to avoid facing other issues.

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  • WHD2

    Phelps did not win the Olympic Butterfly 100 meter final. Milorad Cavic of Serbia won the event and after the race stated that he had won the event. Cavic had already soundly beaten Phelps in the Semifinals of that event! After the race Phelps also stated that he thought he had lost. And even Phelp’s mother first acted as though she thought Phelps had lost! She appeared totally dumbfounded but accepted it! Cavic’s coach said that he would launch a protest. Serbia also “launched a protest.” Then later both the Serbian government (a U.S. proxy/puppet regime installed after the U.S./NATO-led dismemberment/ethnic cleansing of the sovereign country of Yugoslavia, where under Tito everybody lived together in peace) and Cavic and his coach both withdrew their complaints. U.S. Puppet/Proxy Serbia was clearly under extreme pressure from the United States. Serbia in turn put extreme pressure on Cavic and his coach who withdrew their complaint. The United States wanted their “Golden Boy” (Bloomberg TV, August 18, 2008), and refused to permit the reality of the loss to Cavic to spoil the headline heralding Phelps: “A PERFECT FINISH, AN UNMATCHED RECORD.” New York Times (August 17, 2008) The FINA executive Director, Cornel Marculescu, stated that FINA would not permit the release of the footage by Omega the official timekeeper for the Beijing Games of the finish under the phony hard-sell pretext: “We are not going to distribute the footage. We are not doing THESE KINDS OF THINGS. (!) EVERYTHING IS GOOD. (!?) What are you going to do with the footage? See what the Serbians already saw? It is clarified for us beyond any doubt. He’s the winner in any way. (?) He’s the winner no doubt. Even if you could see the pictures, I don’t know how you could use them.” And Cavic the actual winner stated: “If you ask me, it should be accepted and we should move on. I’ve accepted defeat, and there’s nothing wrong with losing to the greatest swimmer there has ever been.” (!?)(New York Times, August 17, 2008) Parentheses added. The answer to this sort of tripe is simply: “What are you afraid of? What do you have to hide from an actual frame-by-frame analysis? Except the victory of Cavic over Phelps! You sound like a liar caught in a clumsy cover-up! You don’t make decisions for me! Big Brother.”

    The event was apparently also not actually shown LIVE. It was on a time delay despite the LIVE claim on the TV screen. Within seconds of the finish which showed Phelps in the water after the race he was suddenly being interviewed on the tarmac! Not credible! It is very easy to rig such an event if the race is that close. The U.S. knew that it might be close because of the fact that Cavic had already beaten Phelps in the Semifinals and they could not let anything alter their propaganda use of Phelps to try to improve the true image of the U.S. as the source of all war as well as all economic disparity. A software program can be easily written to cover all eventualities in. The U.S. government can and does routinely hack computers of their adversaries and send computer viruses which completely destroy their adversaries’ hard drives and the entire computer, for example, and more (e.g. monitors by overloading them), as this writer has experienced firsthand. The bottom line for this particular computer program was that unless Cavic won by a clearly visible margin he would “lose” in a very close race, even if he actually won! The 2 electronic touch pads on the walls of the pool can be reversed in their polarity in a digital twinkling, so that even if Cavic touched the wall first it would simply register as Phelps touching the wall. Because if you look closely in that part of the replay which was permitted directly after the race it is quite clear that is exactly what happened. Phelps lost! And he knew that he lost! But he was very happy to accept the false victory! It should be recalled that with the Zapruder film of the JFK Assassination the “commentator” Dan Rather lied about what it showed, falsely stating that Kennedy’s head flew backwards due to totally fabricated so-called “jet effect” violating all laws of physics in response to a supposed bullet fired from behind him, when in fact JFK was hit only by 2 shots from the front. One went through his tie knot and the other was the Dum-Dum bullet that hit him in the head and killed him instantly. (Writer is number one authority on JFK assassination who gave keynote talk on JFK at Ethical Culture Society on November 12, 1975, twelfth anniversary of JFK Assassination but who is not permitted to speak on anti-Communist WBAI radio!)

    Both Serbia and the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) went along with the fraudulent Phelps’ victory in the 100 meter Fly because of political pressure from the United States. China was indubitably blackmailed and threatened that unless they went along with the crime the U.S. would push the age issue with the clearly underage Chinese girl gymnasts and take away their Olympic Team gold medal. Humiliation the Chinese did not want to accept! This is also the reason that the PRC went along with the U.S. all around victory in girls’ gymnastics which was accomplished by U.S. puppet judges grossly inflating the level of difficulty and execution by the U.S. and doing the reverse and chiseling big-time the level of difficulty and the execution of the vastly superior Chinese girl gymnasts. Shawn Johnson for example, was permitted to usurp second place in the all-around title after putting in very simple routines in the uneven bars and balance beam. Even in the floor exercise Johnson’s level of difficulty and execution were pumped up like a balloon. This modus operandi occurred over and over! The Serbian government is a U.S. puppet/virtual proxy state which was installed after the U.S. division of Yugoslavia, a country where everyone got along. Serbia is a U.S. puppet just like the government of Georgia, which was incidentally authorized and directed by the U.S. The U.S. openly encouraged Sakashvilli to invade South Ossetia and now falsely denies it. In July 2008 Kindasleezy Rice standing beside him in Tbilisi, offered encouragement to Sakashvilli similar to that given to the later-sacrificed Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990 by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, to invade Kuwait. Glaspie gave Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait by telling him: “We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” (New York Times, 9/23/90)) The U.S. told Sakashvilli to invade the independent area of South Ossetia while the world was being distracted by the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Rice also blurted out at a dinner in Spring 2004 in Washington, D.C. that she was the mistress of the usurper Bush!)

    In addition, the U.S. and so-called “Israel” has supplied virtually all of Georgis’s military hardware and the U.S. has admitted to having 2000 military “advisors” and “trainees” in Georgia. Russia Today TV initially reported that “American mercenaries” (all U.S. military personnel today “volunteers” a euphemism for mercenaries) accompanied the invading force into South Ossetia and that some may have been killed. The U.S./Georgian Invasion of South Ossetia was carried out with the primary objective of trying to create ethnic division in the U.S. attempt to discredit, weaken and divide Russia just like they did with Yugoslavia! The U.S.-led capitalist media is a privatized arm of the U.S. government’s so-called “intelligence community” and United Nations have focused only on Russia’s response to the U.S./Georgian invasion of South Ossetia by sending its forces into Georgia. The United States long-range objective is to try to eventually overthrow the Russian government and steal Russia’s unbelievable wealth of natural resources just like the U.S. is doing in Iraq. The situation surrounding Russia today looks dangerously similar to the beginning of a replay of 1940 with the NAZIS on the border of the USSR preparing to invade.

    The invasion of South Ossetia was thus a deliberate provocation which Russia had no choice but to respond to and was carried out to achieve several objectives, the first of which is described above but it also has disturbing parallels to the Full Court Press Nuclear Arms Race that the Reagan Regime put on the USSR in the 1980’s which ultimately forced the surrender by Mikhail Gorbachev to the threat of a nuclear war. Capitalist media focus on the Russian response to the invasion of South Ossetia has been used to build public support in Poland for the so-called U.S. “Missile Defense” to be placed in Poland and later the radar to be built in the U.S.-puppet Czech Republic. Public support in Poland, which opposed the U.S. “missile defense” prior to the Russian response in South Ossetia, now supports it! The U.S. was able to place Pershing Nuclear First Strike Nuclear Missiles in Germany 10 minutes from Moscow only after carrying out the 1983 Korean Airliner Provocation in order to discredit the European opposition to the placement of Pershing II First Strike nuclear missiles in Germany, which later caused the surrender by Gorbachev to the threat of an imminent nuclear war. (There was no Soviet “economic collapse” as testified by the CIA on U.S. network TV news in 1990, who stated that they saw no indications of an incipient “economic collapse in the USSR.” This was because there was no economic collapse, but a Soviet surrender to the threat of a nuclear war followed by a long and painful dismantlement of the Soviet Workers’ State leaving the leadership structure in place.) Mikhail Gorbachev’s Op-Ed column in the New York Times, August 20, 2008, was the typical Stalinist (Not Communist!) opportunist response, which did not explain the clever U.S. strategy of provocation and that Russia is forced to respond to these provocations. He also lied through omission by omitting the U.S. objectives of these provocations. By explaining the provocations Russia would be able to explain how the U.S. intends to manipulate public opinion. This way the public in all countries can be on their guard not to allow themselves to be manipulated by the country which lied about “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq.

    The U.S. has just signed an agreement to build a so-called “missile defense” system in Poland which includes missile interceptors. Obviously the number of missiles in Poland will begin to increase exponentially as the U.S. orchestrates provocation after provocation on the border of Russia. This so-called “missile defense” is actually part of a Nuclear First Strike plan by the United States as was explained back in the 1980’s when the U.S. put a full court press on the USSR with a runaway nuclear arms race and “Star Wars” to force the Soviet surrender by Gorbachev in 1988. The “Missile Defenses” are used simultaneously with a U.S. Nuclear First Strike in order to try to cripple the Russian response to the U.S. First Strike. The U.S. is hoping that they will win the game of “chicken” like they did in the 1980’s and that the Russians will back down and make a second surrender as they did in 1988. This is the present strategy centerpiece of U.S. “statecraft” with Russia.

    Today ninety-five percent of New Yorkers agree that we need a new system based on human need not private profit. A Socialist Revolution in the United States will end the basis for all war and set the stage for solving the entire complex of problems created by capitalism, which threaten the survival of humankind. Capitalism cannot be reformed through elections or by any other means because the capitalist dictatorship is left in place and because capitalism has an internal dynamic of its own which leads to a constantly hardening capitalist dictatorship finally to Fascism, barbarism and the end of civilization. Politicians rise to the surface to the extent that they express and further this almost entirely one-way dynamic. The “presidential elections” are the primary weapon of the capitalists, which is used to try to perpetuate the illusion of “democracy” in what is a constantly hardening capitalist dictatorship. If you vote for anyone you are neutralized and are a sucker! Today capitalism is in its Final Stage of Permanent War and State Terrorism.

    The United States Invasion of Iraq is one more act of State Terrorism and has resulted in the deaths of 1.2 million Iraqis by September 2007 according to National Public Radio. Now the number is more like 1.5 million. Capitalism offers a world with no future! Remember that in the end all wars are won and lost on morale and every movement begins with the call. The first call must be to deprive the capitalists of bodies of armed men to send against the masses, by calling for the only political position with successful historical precedent: Call for Mutiny in Iraq as in Vietnam, the real reason and the ONLY reason the Vietnam War ended on the spot in 1975 after the Third Marine Division turned their guns around on their officers forcing the immediate and total evacuation of all U.S. troops in days and hours. The capitalist demagogues/stooges Obama, Clinton, McCain, etc. all call for “Phased Redeployment,” which means in practice simply transferring some forces from Iraq to Afghanistan (Obama, e.g.) or elsewhere and leaving a puppet government in place in Iraq. Mutiny Saves Lives! Mutiny is provided for by the Declaration of Independence which is actually a transitional document which supports a Socialist Revolution in the United States! Remember that when the U.S. invades a country they never leave. The U.S has a military presence in over 130 countries right now…and counting. Blackwater USA, Custer Battles, Dyncorp, etc and all 45,000 armed military contractors are paid 4 times what the regular U.S. mercenary marauder/cutthroat forces are paid in order to induce loyalty and are a NAZI-like SS (Schutzstaffel) formation which is in Iraq for one purpose only—to protect the Officer Corp in the event of another Mutiny—NOT to protect “diplomats,” the phony cover story foisted on an unsuspecting public. The U.S. created a mercenary army to replace the previous enlisted army used in Vietnam as the yet another tactic to try and prevent reoccurrence of mutiny. Therefore the present U.S. military mercenary army must get its act together, realize that their interests as well as the interests of all humankind are violated by the invasions of Iraq, etc. They will have to turn their guns around on their officers who must all be immediately arrested unless they join and support the Mutiny and then they must fight and decisively defeat Blackwater and the other 45,000 military contractors, which they can easily do if they organize themselves to do it, because the regular army is much larger and has heavier weapons. The key is organization. That is why the Call for Mutiny in Iraq must come from the United States!

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  • Colin Kerr

    “Editors are a luxury we must afford. But as their jobs change, so will their character. Editors will become gentle coaches whose job it is to look for the good in the world of the web. They’ll have to be nicer. Based on that, some may still choose to impale themselves..”

    Excellent observation Jeff. Some of the editors I worked for were like bad imitations of the Walter Matthau character in The Front Page.

    The industry has changed utterly and the 21st century editor will need to be more considerate and considered to survive.

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