The News Editor is one of the most important persons who plan a daily newspaper. His role in any newspaper office-whether it be weekly or daily-is all pervading. To a national newspaper an active, intelligent and enterprising news editor is the vital spark which energises its news coverage and outlook.
He is responsible for a steady and continuous inflow of up-to-the-minute news into newspaper office. Although most of the news supplied is a mechanical process covered by daily routine, but like all machinery of news gathering, the news editor is responsible for watching its smooth functioning. The news editor keeps a careful eye on the routine side of his news collection as well as on the other side of his work or the news desk which calls for more imaginative emulation.
Function of the News Editor
An ideal news editor manages to get all the obvious stories into his paper with a good proportion of them as exclusives. While the selection of obvious stories is important, greater importance is attached to the original ones produced by his team of correspondents.
The number of words received on the teleprinter in a newspaper is so large that if each word were to be printed, the newspaper will have to run into hundreds of pages each morning.
The news editor is called upon to use his discretion, discrimination and imagination in reading the public mind and select the stories which have real news value and can be called important by his readers-quite a large number to be allotted a “splash” position on the main news pages according to the subject matter 01 field of activity they are concerned with.
All this has to be done with an alertness to ensure that the kind of stories readers seek shall be found in his newspaper.
There are some fundamental stories which no newspaper can afford to miss as they go into all the daily newspapers without exception. While they are important and have to be included, there are others called exclusive which only an alert news editor can discover from the large ocean of copy that has been pouring into the office during the day.
An intelligent news editor has to make a judicious follow-up of a seemingly promising paragraph or sometimes even make further enquiry before finalising the story and give it the perfect shape he wants.
Exclusive Stories of News Editor
The news editor gets good satisfaction from the stories which are exclusive to his own newspaper. If he can manage to get into every issue a dozen or more minor stories with good news value but exclusive, he feels elated.
The news editor is also responsible for final scrutiny of important news stories submitted by different correspondents, feature writers and outside correspondents. He gives special attention to the facts and figures included in the write-ups and wherever he is in doubt, he takes pains to check-up their accuracy from the authentic source.
Any slip on his part can land the newspaper into trouble. Hence good newspapers have highly experienced and intelligent news editors.
Organising Ability of News Editor
The hurry and scurry of daily routine makes heavy demands upon the organising ability of the news editor and his decisions, especially when time is short yet there has to be accuracy. The exigencies of the case may sometimes mean even deputing different correspondents to different parts of the country to piece together the links of a promising story.
There are certain qualities that the News Editor must possess. He must have an infinite amount of patience and a keen interest in news of all kind. He must have a good general educational background with a fair amount of historical, political and economic knowledge. He must try to keep himself abreast and informed on every important development in the work-a-day world.
He must enjoy reading the newspapers, the weeklies, and the magazines. He must not think that he can keep normal working hours, for it is truer of the News Editor than of anybody else that he is always on duty whether at home or in the office.
He must be a good mixer, he must be on the lookout for news all the time, he must learn to scan the newspaper, and-perhaps the most important asset of all-he must be able to retain his sense of humour however depressing the situation may be.
Daily Routine of News Editor
His working day begins early. Once he gets to his office there is so much to be one that he has little time to examine thoroughly his own paper and those of rival managements.
Therefore, he must begin his reading with his early morning cup of tea and continue it on the way so that when he gets to his desk he has a fair idea of the contents of the morning papers. His assistant will have arrived earlier and will have prepared a list of his papers, exclusive news items and a more depressing list, that of the stories which the paper has missed.
He will probably regard the ‘scoops’ as in the natural order of things, but he will certainly want to hold an inquest on the news which has been missed, primarily to satisfy himself that there is not a fault in the paper’s methods of news gathering which needs to be eradicated.
Having dealt with the past he must immediately concern himself with the future and launch his plan of campaign for the next issue. Probably his first task will be to decide whether there is anything in any of the papers which needs to be followed up.
It used to be Lord Northcliffe’s dictum that a first-class news story will always stand up to one or two ‘follow-up’ stories, and the reporters can be put on to these right away. Next he must mark the diary and assign the reporters to attend meetings which ought to be specially covered and not left to the news agencies.
He must also allot men to the news stories which have cropped up and to enquiries which may not produce immediate results but which may be the preliminary step towards a first-class article a few days later. But he must watch his man-power closely. He must not fritter it away and he must not be left in the position that if later in the morning big news comes in, the reporters’ room is empty.
It is certainly not false economy to have one or two reporters sitting idle; if they are wise they will spend their free time in reading newspapers, books, or periodicals which can always be borrowed from the office library.
It is the great thrill of the News Editor’s life that he can never guess when the big news will break. One News Editor certainly will never forget the moment when a pale-faced messenger tore an item off the tape machine and put on his desk the first news of the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Or another moment when, as he sat quietly in his armchair, the telephone rang in the late evening and he was informed that his paper’s Patna correspondent had been kidnapped.
Morning News Conference of News Editor
Assuming that the morning is a norms’ one the News Editor, having allotted the reporters their assignments turns his attention to the preparations for the morning news conference, for which he is primarily responsible.
This is generally attended by the Editor or one of his assistants, the Junior Editors and their assistants, the picture editor, the cartographer, a representative of the City Department, and a man from the circulating department which should always be kept in close touch with the news as it arises.
This conference is usually of an informal character when ideas on the day’s news and on space requirements are freely exchanged in preparation for the more important conference which will be held in the late afternoon.
The News Editor also remains in communication with many of the special writers, who do much of their work away from the office, and with the heads of other departments. He goes through the ‘marked papers’ in which the contributions from correspondents are brought to his notice. That is why it is held that the News Editor should not stick to his desk all the time, because good contacts are necessary for the maintenance of a first class news service. For that reason, most of the News Editors of the national newspapers are given an entertainment allowance and most of it is spent at the luncheon table.