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The American Society of Paperless News?

The shift away from newsprint has required new titles for journalism organizations.

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For a profession that purports to explain the whole world to its customers, journalism certainly gets entangled at times in its own terminology.

That was my somewhat cranky response to something I heard on the radio the other day – or rather, to something I didn't hear: the two syllables of the word .

It came in a brief reference to President Obama's speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors – oops, make that "News Editors." Three years ago, ASNE voted to drop "paper" into the recycle bin and style itself simply a society of "news editors." The decision came just a few weeks after the Monitor made its own transition from daily print publication plus website to "Web first" plus weekly magazine.

Ah, but a news editor isn't quite the same thing as a newspaper editor or (attention – nuance alert!) as editor of a newspaper. Confusion buzzes around both elements: "news" and "editor."

At one level, the very top, "editor" is a customary term for the chief news executive at a paper. That's the tradition at the Monitor, three of whose editors (Erwin Canham, John Hughes, and Katherine Fanning) have served as ASNE presidents. Some papers use the term "executive editor" for this position.

A "news editor" may be the No. 2 in a newsroom, as he was at my first real job out of college. Or he or she may be No. 3, behind a managing editor. A news editor may divide the world with a features editor. The two may sit on the same level of the org chart, but the news editor will have pride of place – rather the way the secretaries of State and of Housing and Urban Development both sit in the presidential cabinet, but one position goes back to the founding of the republic and the other doesn't.

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