Presentation on theme: "An editors constraints Influences on editors from within and without."— Presentation transcript:
An editors constraints Influences on editors from within and without
Influences on editors All mass media professionals face a wide variety of influences affecting what they choose to publish, broadcast or post online. Editors are no exception. They must conform to a publications view of reality, of course. But they also deal with more specific considerations.
Space For editors dealing with publications as well as websites that is, most of themspace is a major constraint. Usually an editor has too little space to work with. Possibly, however, she may have too much.
Determining space Editors of most commercial publications do not make decision regarding space. Space is determined by the business office. Its usually based on a formula considering all costs of the operation. In legacy media, most of that cost is paid by advertising.
Advertising and space Because the traditional formula requires advertising to pay for a publication, the business office calculates the amount needed to cover costs and profit. That provides a ratio, called the advertising ratio. The ad ratio dictates how much space an editor will have to work with.
Ad ratio Many news-based publications, for example, set an ad ratio at about 50 percent. That means 50 percent of the space available must contain advertising. Whats left over after the ads are placed is available to editors. The advertising always goes in firstbecause someones paying for it!
Ad ratio day to day The number of pages changes depending on how well the advertising staff did their work. For example, if the ad staff had a really good week, the editor will have plenty of spacemaybe too much. On the other hand, if ad sales were slack, the editor will find less space. The ad ratio explains why most mass media publications change in page size from issue to issue.
Available space Number of pages generally has little to do with amount of copy an editor has available. Its based on advertising. So what this means practically for us on the editorial side is that even if we have a day packed with story options, if the ad staff didnt sell enough papers, were stuck. We end up throwing away a lot that just wont fit.
Lots of space On the other hand, the editor may face a really big issue, lots of spaceand a comparatively slow news day. What now? Stories that might not have been published end up in the publication. Photos might be bigger, and more abundant. Most editors save evergreen (no time element) stories for slow news days. Sometimes theyll rely on unpaid house ads, such as a promotion: Read the Blab every day!
Shoppers Publications that reach an ad ratio of 70 to 80 percent, that is, 70 to 80 percent of the space is paid for, are commonly called shoppers, or other free supermarket rack publications. Even if an editor doesnt think hes working for a shopper, if its packed with that many ads, people will presume it is regardless. You cant include mostly advertising and expect people to pay for your publication--with the exception of some slick magazines such as Brides, of course.
Section editors Most publications of any size employ specialized editors responsible for filling a section of a publication. The most obvious example is the sports editor, responsible for the sports section. Others may be business, variety or the wire editor national and international news. On magazines, sections reflect the theme of the publication.
Getting more space Editors may be able to negotiate with each other for more space. A heavy sports day may require an extra page from the business section. But the sports editor will have to pay that back. Sometimes important news will squeeze out advertising for a few days. But in the long run, it will have to be evened out to refect the publications ad ratio.
Space and the Web Editors dont face similar space concerns on the internet. Often they can add more pictures, videos, sidebars, interviews and other assets not possible in print. Nevertheless, editors know readers have online habits that make it harder to keep eyeballs on a website, and harder to keep attention spans on long stories. Those constraints keep a news operations website from sprawling, though cost is not closely related to space as it is in print.
Big publications Normally editors for large-circulation publications find space constraints more difficultthey just have too much copy coming into their desk for the amount of space available. Smaller publications, however, sometimes have the opposite problemthey dont get enough copy. Everyone who has edited an organizations newsletter knows how hard it is to get people to contribute.
News mix By news mix we mean content mixthat is, the kind of things an editor publishes based on that publications view of reality. It might not be news, per se; even Yoga Journal has a news mix. Editors need to make choices matching the news mix formulaalso a constraint, because editors cant choose some kinds of material, no matter how good it may be.
News mix Most publications of sufficient size base a precise news mix formula on marketing surveys. If, for example, a survey shows that a small but devoted group reads the daily bridge column or crossword, a newspaper will keep that in its news mix, even if its not a large readership. This is because legacy news media tries to have something for everybody.
Something for everybody A media operation doesnt care why you read, and why you (hopefully) buy the publication. It just cares that you buy it, and you look at it. If a publisher can get 50 more people to buy just for the crossword or bridge column, well, thats enough. The is the contract of the published mass media: something for everyone.
Everything for everyone Note that contract is different from that of broadcast media. Broadcast news has to offer everything for everyone. News directors know that, unlike print, if you dont like a story you dont just turn the page. You turn the station. And that needs to be avoided at all costs. So broadcast news tends to appeal to a lower common denominator than print news.
Pressure from advertisers Some people not involved with the media presume they are mostly controlled by their advertisers, and the editors make content decisions based on advertisers. Is that true? Well, no. And yet....
Legacy journalism and ads First lets consider the case of the large legacy journalism operationsthe daily newspapers. Most quality dailies of any size separate their advertising division from their editorial division. And that means literally separateon a different floor, or behind a different wall. Advertising staff request nothing from journalists. Editors would be insulted if they did.
Advertising influence Advertisers may occasionally try pressuring editors at these newspapers, but they likely will not get very far. This is a matter of journalism ethics. But its also a matter of poweron large media operations, traditionally the advertisers needed the publications more than the publications needed the advertisers. The balance of power tilted toward the media.
Advertising power and change That does not, however, seem to be so true today. A few of the largest metro dailies in the United States have actually gone out of business. Others are trying to predict their future, as the old profit model based on advertising ratio seems to be breaking down. Still, however, journalists of integrity working on larger operations see little influence from advertisers.
Advertisers and smaller pubs The influence of advertisers on smaller publications may be dramatically different. Small-town newspaper editors know the loss of just a few big advertisers will spell doom for their company. So advertisers are accommodated whenever possible. If an advertiser wants to see a reporter out covering its new products or new plant, you can bet someone will be there.
Advertisers and magazines Advertisers influence on mass media goes beyond this obvious news influence on smaller pubs. Magazines typically have maintained a more porous wall between advertising and editorial. Advertisers likely influence story choice and placement on many smaller magazines. Magazines will sometimes offer a feature article in return for buying advertising space.
Special publications Advertisers also are accommodated through production of special sections or feature publications. Newspapers in particular earn money by producing popular special sections on topics such as weddings, sports, fitness, travel, car care, etc. These consist of light feature stories, but are primarily sold as vehicles for advertizers. Not unethicalbut you wont find hard-hitting investigative pieces in such places.
Publishers traditions Editors also are constrained by a publications traditionsnewspapers in particular are tradition-bound, ironic considering they are renewed every day. A publication may publish, say, square dance news because they always have done that. Perhaps they never publish wedding photos, because they never have. Sometimes these traditions are unwrittenbut an editor needs to know them.
Publishers bias We know most publications have a publisherthat is, a person who runs the show, and probably is part owner of the operation. That person may carefully avoid any appearance of bias by staying out of the editorial operation. Or not. Even if she does, editors know what the publisher does and does not like. If, for example, the publisher hates cats, well, you wont see a lot of cat pictures published.
Editors prejudices Perhaps most insidious is the bias from inside. All of us have opinions about pretty much everything. Research shows that more often than not those opinions are based on emotion, childhood experience, influence of relataives and friendsbut not on evidence or reason, alas.
Editors prejudice I hope we, on the other hand, form our opinions based on reason and evidence. But probably we cant do that for all of them. In fact, we might not even know our biases. Perhaps weve never examined them. What happens when an editor is influenced by unconscious bias?
Bias and editing Sometimes the editor responds by selecting and displaying material based on subtle bias. For example, an editor may be prejudiced against Native Americans. He may respond by downplaying or ignoring news of Native Americans, or focusing only on the negative news that confirms his bias.
Editors and bias How can a fair, ethical editor respond to his own bias? First, she needs to carefully examine and acknowledge them. Is she politically liberal or conservative? On what side does she fall regarding controversial issues?
Responding to bias Acknowledging bias is the first step to editing based on this knowledge. The second step is to plan a response should the issue come up. Will the editor make a decision himself? Ask for input? Ask someone else to decide? Or even give more emphasis to the side he opposes, to counteract his bias?