What Do You Do?

March 16, 2009

There is a word related to writing and publishing that has so many meanings it ends up not having much meaning at all, and the word is “editor” (and the many words appended to it). What does an editor do? How is an editor different from an associate editor or an assistant editor? Who’s in charge? The editor? The executive editor? The editor-in-chief?

The New York Times has an executive editor, listed above two managing editors; Tin House has an editor, listed above a managing editor, an executive editor, and a senior editor; TriQuaterly also starts their masthead with an editor, followed by an associate editor–and then, down below even the editorial assistants, who I always think of as the very bottom of the masthead-worthy crowd, comes an assistant editor; the LA Times has an editor, above an executive editor, and a managing editor; The Paris Review goes editor, managing-, senior-.

I have to say, I don’t like the term executive editor. It’s sounds to businessy. And I think starting the masthead with an editor only makes sense if there are no senior- or executive- editors. What does the word senior mean, exactly, if the senior editor is below the editor? Editor-in-chief seems to be falling by the wayside, which is too bad because it has a nice ring to it. Its similarity to commander-in-chief gives the task of publishing a sort of important, militia feeling.

What’s your favorite?

–Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf, Assistant Editor.

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