Newspaper Editor

The Job and What's Involved

Newspaper editors are responsible for the content and style of their publication, or a section within it. They need a good understanding of the printing industry, business management and the type of person who reads their publication.

Editorial responsibilities vary depending on the employer and the level of seniority, but are likely to include some or all of the following duties:

  • Taking overall responsibility for their section of the newspaper, including the tone, quality and accuracy, as well as deadlines.
  • Deciding which stories to run and assigning reporters/writers to cover them.
  • Carrying out interviews.
  • Writing articles and features.
  • Preparing the stories for publication.
  • Deciding on layout and photographs.
  • Ensuring staffing needs are met, including recruitment and training.
  • Making sure that advertising and distribution targets are met.

Much of a newspaper editor's work is done at a computer. A good working knowledge of software packages such as QuarkXpress and Photoshop is often essential.

Newspaper editors work closely with the editorial team, reporters, advertising staff, printers and publishers. The work can be highly pressured with tight deadlines to meet.

A newspaper editor is likely to work irregular and sometimes unsociable hours, including weekends and evenings. Full-time editors generally work around forty hours a week. If a big story breaks, an editor could be expected to cover it, even on a day off. Shift work may be involved for those working on larger newspapers.

Almost all of the work is carried out indoors in an office, which can often be noisy and busy.

Starting salaries range from around £14,000 a year on a small local paper, to around £18,000 on a regional or national paper.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Journalism is a popular career choice and competition for editorial posts may be fierce.

Although smaller local and regional papers are spread across the country, most opportunities are based around London, Edinburgh and the south of England. Most entrants begin working for a smaller paper. Applications are usually made directly to editors of local papers for trainee employment posts.

Vacancies are advertised in the media sections of national newspapers, including the Guardian on Mondays, and in magazines such as Media Week and Press Gazette. The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph also list jobs on their websites. Links to other relevant websites are available at www.ukeditors.com.

Education and Training

Most newspaper editors begin their careers as trainee reporters/journalists. The minimum entry requirements for newspaper journalism are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English, or equivalent qualifications. However, the majority of new journalists have a degree, or the equivalent.

Degree courses in publishing and other multidisciplinary courses with optional publishing modules are widely available. Other relevant degrees include English, history and politics. However, most degree subjects can be acceptable for entry to training.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) accredits many postgraduate courses specialising in newspaper journalism.

For entry to a degree, applicants usually need a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades, or the equivalent.

For entry to a BTEC/SQA higher national qualification, applicants usually need four or five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) and one or two A levels/two H grades, a BTEC/SQA national qualification, or the equivalent.

Entry to a postgraduate course is usually with a first degree.

Experience, whether paid or voluntary, is important when applying for work or for courses, and most colleges and employers will expect to see examples of published work.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is carried out on the job, working alongside more senior and experienced members of staff. Some of the larger national papers offer formal graduate trainee schemes.

Entrants can work towards NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Newspaper Journalism. After achieving this level, some choose to undertake the National Certificate Examination which is accredited by the NCTJ.

Other short and distance-learning courses are available from various colleges nationwide. Visit www.nctj.com for further information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A newspaper editor should:

  • Have excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Have a good command of English.
  • Be creative, with a flair for language and visuals.
  • Have good organisational and time-management skills.
  • Have a high level of computer literacy.
  • Be precise and accurate.
  • Be able to make decisions and remain calm under pressure.
  • Be able to work to deadlines.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experience and talent is vital to progress in the industry. A successful editing career may begin with the post of copy sub-editor, leading to additional responsibilities such as layout and design, before moving to an editorial assistant or sub-editorial position.

Working for a smaller newspaper may provide greater opportunities to experience all aspects of editing and journalism.

Newspaper editors may move into related work with PR organisations or press offices. There are also opportunities to work freelance.

Get Further Information

National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ),
Latton Bush Centre, Southern Way,
Harlow, Essex CM18 7BL
Tel: 01279 430009
Website: www.nctj.com

National Union of Journalists (NUJ),
Headland House, 308-312 Gray's Inn Road,
London WC1X 8DP
Tel: 020 7278 7916
Website: www.nuj.org.uk

Newspaper Society, Bloomsbury House,
74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA
Tel: 020 7636 7014
Website: www.newspapersoc.org.uk

Society for Editors and Proofreaders,
Apsley House, 176 Upper Richmond Road,
Putney, London SW15 2SH
Tel: 020 8785 6155
Website: www.sfep.org.uk

Society of Editors,
University Centre, Granta Place,
Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1RU
Tel: 01223 304080
Website: www.ukeditors.com

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