I was recently in a discussion on how to be a good editor, and I realized by the time I had finished responding I had a pretty good essay that I'd like to share.

The key thing to remember about being an editor is to remember that process is a tool, not your job. An editor's job is to find, solicit, and/or create content that serves the target audience of the publication. Doing the job properly requires understanding your audience and market, knowing your industry, and being able to use the tools provided to create compelling content to serve it. That includes but is not limited to creating or modifying headlines to better address the content and attract the audience, cleaning up and/or condensing the text for print brevity or website style, and being good enough with English and industry vernacular to accomplish that in a timely and effective manner.

Frankly, if editors allow themselves to be defined as content process specialists, it will allow bean-counters to kill off editing as a profession and turn it into just another flavor of office work. Editing is the development and presentation of content to inform, edify, and amuse the target audience, and that requires creativity, editorial freedom, and journalistic integrity. Those who focus on just the processes and tools have lost sight of why they are an editor.

In public relations, the job is to deliver a specific message to the target audience for the client, while an editor working for a news publication (web or print) is (should be) driven by journalism and a desire to edify the audience in the area of coverage.

In any industry there exist companies operating on both sides of "The Wall(TM)*" employing editors to use their skills to make publications from catalogs to newsletters to tabloids to magazines to serve the marketplace. The skills required by both types of publication are the same, but the direction those skills are applied is directed by that wall.

Your audience wants to know and understand things. Let's say a company makes a power-conversion chip that is superconducting at room temperature. If that company can't tell the design engineering community that their company and chip exist, the manufacturer won't sell very many and consumers are denied the advantages to product functionality that chip promised. The information about that product is distributed through the industry, with the PR agent driven by the desire to serve the client, and the editor a desire to serve the reader.

So picture an electronic design engineer at a smartphone company. The mailman comes and gives him a catalog or two and a newsmagazine or three. All of the publications are profit-driven. In both cases the content is prepared by editors.

Some of the publications get their content from people who paid to be mentioned. This mention can take the form of an ad that identifies itself as such, an advertorial that is a paid ad but is presented as a kind of sponsored content to the audience, or a mention in original editorial content by an author (which is illegal if there is any undeclared compensation for it). The feature content of a business publication is made up of advertiser-driven content. A PR agent is not needed to cajole the editor to accept the material. They paid for the dance so they can call the tune.

Some of the publications get their content by paying (hopefully) impartial experts in their fields or free contributions from companies or organization for consideration by the editorial team for use. The feature section of a news publication is made up of content chosen by that publication's creative staff. R agents are needed here to convince the staff to accept their information as worthwhile to present tot the audience. The editor calls the tune. Advertising still pays for the dance, but (to stretch the metaphor) their ROI comes from being associated with the "cooler" party.

The catalog gets the info to the audience, but the news magazine is more trusted as the content was not (hopefully) dictated.

*The wall between the "church" of pure editorial art and journalistic truth and the "state" of business.

(BTW, one of the sites I am the EiC of, www.ecnmag.com, was named a "Top 10 Media Site" by BtB Business Media Magazine.)