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Provide Great Journalists with Great Editors

I have touted the idea of hiring super journalists, who provide so much good and new information that they create value for their Representative Journalism communities. However, these excellent reporters will need excellent editors — and often they will need excellent editors who understand the issue or discipline underlying each Representative Journalism community. If the community is focused on everyday local issues like town government, then a local editor might be fine. But if the issue is about, let’s say, diabetes or birding in Northwest Georgia, the editor might not have the specialized background to do the editing. In these cases, the editing job might well be outsourced to trade up rather than trade down. Remember everything done in Representative Journalism is going to follow the credo of smarting up and not dumbing down.

Thanks to computers there is really no need for the editor to be in the same building, county, state or country. The idea is to pair the best editors with the best journalists. That could change story by story, but my guess is that journalists will find editors who enhance their work and in time great relations will form. For a minute, I want to turn the clock back to when the New Journalism first made its appearance with the likes of Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson producing fantastic literary nonfiction. Most of the local attempts bombed. Too often the reporters didn’t have the skills to be both great reporters and great writers. There were even fewer editors who understood what was needed to produce literary journalism.

Just think if those reporters who did have chops, would have been paired with the types of editors who were working with Didion, Wolfe and Thompson. The result would have been more greater writers. So for Representative Journalism it will probably be a good idea to build databanks filled with the names, resumes, writer recommendations and clips from the editors. Perhaps just like with Digg, their work would go through a filtering process and the reputation of the best of them would grow.  Every writer needs an editor; now we must develop mechanisms for the best of each to find each other.

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    Leonard Witt

    Leonard Witt is the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University and the chief blogger at PJNet.org.

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