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The role of editors

Posted by: | November 4, 2009 | No Comment |

In chapter 9 of Mitchell Stephens’ “A History of News,” he writes about the development of newspaper editors in England during the 1600s. Editors organize a newspaper into having clarity and direction to the reader. Newspapers with clarity and direction are more credible than those lacking.

One problem newspapers had in the 1600s was how to organize stories from different locations. The early corantos (Dutch broadsheets) would often have incorrect city headings. News from Hungary might have a Amsterdam heading or other wrong locations.

We do not have a byline for him but Stephens says that evidence indicates that Thomas Gainsford, an English military officer, is the first English editor. Gainsford is known for attempting to organize at-times disjointed news stories and for including stories from Continental Europe.

An editor’s main goal then, as it is now, is to create a familiar product that readers turn to for news and views on the world. Newspapers should also have a separate identity from the news itself. Even those who do not read USA Today can recognize its iconic front page at first sight.

In the modern newspaper, editors are held accountable to their readers through the “Letter to the Editor” section. Readers who write the letters can use their space to criticize an article or to praise an article.

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