Would These Editors Hire You?
Three top editors chime in on what skill sets they’re looking for today.
“An editor’s role will never be what it was just five years ago.”
That’s a line from a 2009 FOLIO: story on publishers building the edit staff they need to define the company’s future. Today, digital skills are assumed a given. What publishers need now are editors who can not only create great content, but help the brand define a strategic shift as well.
Here, we spoke with three editors from different markets about what they’re looking for in new hires.
Editor, Men’s Health
New hires are going to have to be their own self-sufficient multi-media channel and general technological maven. It is true that in all these areas that if someone doesn’t have a well-rounded media portfolio—meaning, experience with the Web, with social media, with having their fingers in all the pies that Men’s Health has their fingers in right now—we’re unlikely to consider them.
One of the major journalism programs—not to name names—still has a major called print journalism. It’s the stupidest thing ever. The fact is, if we, Men’s Health, are not approaching readers in every possible way we can 24/7, we wouldn’t be moving forward the way we are right now. What we’re looking for is people who are used to dancing on the edge of all the revolutions that are happening right now, and understanding and relating how they can make their output speak in a lot of different channels.
Now, it’s not so much that the communication is different, it’s that the venues have expanded. That’s a great thing, and a good candidate will be excited about reaching out in all those areas rather than stomping their feet and saying, “No, I’m a long-form print journalist.” That resume will remain in the pile.
One of the things that’s really difficult for us is we have a lot of people who can handle the “men’s” part of Men’s Health, but the “health” part is sometimes harder to fill. We have to have people who are familiar with reading scientific studies and know how to talk to PhDs and translate their lab tech language into something our readers will understand.
One of the hard things we have to screen for here is a sense of humor. When it’s at its best, Men’s Health is a very funny magazine. How do you test someone in an interview with how funny they are? Like, “Tell me a joke?” That doesn’t work.
A lot of Men’s Health content comes from a lot of very smart, sympathetic women as well. We don’t discriminate there, and given who’s graduating from J-school, we need those women to participate and to help us to do what we do.
It’s a luxury of the time that we live in that the candidates we have for entry-level positions have a blogging history, have done video work and have had done longer-form journalism with their school newspapers.
You don’t have to have a journalism degree and we keep an eye out for those English majors who have spread themselves around and gotten the experience. That’s sort of where I was when I came into the business, and you’re a little sympathetic with those who share your background. Practically speaking, nine out of the 10 people we would hire for an entry level position would have J-school in their background, because it would mean they have moved through genres and done a lot of the different sorts of reporting that we do here.
Editor-in-Chief, Progressive Grocer
I don’t think most new or seasoned journalists see the b-to-b market as a first stop in terms of a place to build a career. Having the niche specialization that I’ve been able to acquire, as well as deep contacts, have really helped me. I really think that stories are only as good as the sources that you have at your disposal.
We look for good writing in a business voice. A lot of inquiries we get that pertain to our publication are, “Hey, I love to shop! And I love food! And that’s why I’d be a great candidate to consider when you’re hiring!”
Food is sort of the upshot; we’re really telling our audience how to place products, how to sell products, how to market products. Solid business reporting skills serve our needs the best.
However, there is an ample amount of training and knowledge that my team and I would provide a new hire. My expectations would certainly be for somebody to have a really solid grasp of reporting and deadline-meeting ability. There’s also no substitute [for the skills] to write for two vehicles: the monthly print edition and our Web site, which is daily and breaking. We’ve also got digital newsletters. The pace of our deadlines has never been greater, and we don’t expect that to slow down.
The rapid fire pace and the sheer amount of news is part and parcel for our audience as supermarkets are such a vital part of our economy. It’s a fast news cycle and we need a simple willingness to work as hard and as fast as possible, to get those deadlines met and work your sources well.
Years of experience would be position-specific depending on which end of things we’d be speaking of such as content development for our digital products or our print edition or all of the above. I think it’d be less about years of experience and more about simple readiness.
Though years of experience can be great (nothing beats years of experience in understanding different ways to approach different topics or different stories), I still say a sound business reporting voice is probably most important, as well as a unique voice that can convey sometimes complicated thoughts in a straight ahead way. Truthfully, we would consider anybody relevant that would be able to have a convincing writing style.
Right now, we don’t have a distinction between our staff editors [concerning digital and print copy production]. You have to be able to change that voice, too. There’s a writing style that’s pertinent for the long-form and short-form of print and digital media.
Social media would definitely factor into this era of hiring. Some of us have acquired social media skills as we went and with the explosion of social media that has exponentially grown in the past year or so. I think seasoned social media skills are fantastic.
I do think that being a specialist is a real benefit, even you can do all others well. I never think being a specialist is a bad thing, especially as a writer. If there’s one attribute that you can really perfect and define, I think it makes complete sense to refine, perfect and self-promote that as much as possible.
For those of us who have been at it for the duration, we also like to learn from our peers. You have to be able to take feedback and input and not take it personally. There’s always room for improvement. The single most non-trainable or non-educational based attribute is flexibility.
Food safety scares, recalls, M&A and marketing—with all of the various business components at play, I think the need for flexibility and rapidity to change your voice from strictly business to a more whimsical tone is a tremendous benefit. I do think that certain writers are unable to do that.
Senior Vice President, Editorial and Content Development, Farm Journal Media
We have a high-energy, multimedia team that takes pride in providing content that makes a tangible difference in the lives of our audience, America’s farmers. Our team produces content for print, television, digital media, newsletters and events. In many instances, one story crosses at least three different platforms. That means we need multitalented professionals who work well together.
Finding individuals who fit our team starts with identifying a set of core journalism skills: sterling reporting and the ability to deliver a story on more than one media platform. I look for a natural curiosity, a can-do attitude, a strong work ethic and unbending principles. Those attributes nearly always lead to a team member who is motivated to create service journalism pieces that provide news farmers can use.
Our editorial talent has come from every corner of the country and a wide array of hiring sources. A long-running internship program and close connections to many top-level journalism programs have been instrumental in leading us to several star employees.
Many have grown up in agriculture and others have grown to respect and love the industry. That connection is critical to creating stories, videos, photos, events and television reports that are meaningful to today’s farmers, the folks who produce the food we all eat.