City Desk

Leonsis: You Need an Eidtor!

I'm an editor, and I'm feeling under siege of late.

First, Jack Shafer tells me that editors are losing a big chunk of status at the Washington Post.

And then I'm reading that the great Ted Leonsis has just unveiled his 10-point plan for reviving the newspaper biz. Point No. 8 is “Get Rid of Senior Editors.” Here's a dagger from the treatise:

"Editors are passé," writes Leonsis.

Oh no!

How can this be? Just this week, for example, I changed a headline, not to mention a subhead. I convened and ran a meeting. I invited people into my office to discuss various issues related to our platforms, washingtoncitypaper.com/Washington City Paper. I also commended a colleague or two for good work.

Yet Leonsis wants me gone! And he’s a powerful and determined man, one who has already achieved his lifelong goals of owning a yacht, owning a jet, owning a Porsche or Mercedes-Benz, and owning a Ferrari. Check out his complete list of 101 lifetime goals.

Perhaps Leonsis isn’t aware of all the things that an editor does these days. In addition to the action items listed above, here’s a further inventory of my achievements over the recent past.

  • I've "reduced" nearly half of the editorial staff at Washington City Paper.
  • I've slashed the freelance budget beyond all recognition.
  • I've sat by helplessly as our franchise critic resigned.
  • I've perfected a comeback for reporters who gripe about the workload demands of a Web-plus-print world: Either stop complaining or get out of the profession.
  • I've cut nearly all the cartoons in our paper.
  • I've eliminated the customized illustrations that go with our most popular syndicated columns.

I have a classic editor’s relationship with all these initiatives. That is, they weren’t my original ideas. Editorial downsizing at the Washington City Paper started more than a year ago, when our former owners—a group of Chicago newsweekly veterans—decided that our revenues just could no longer support our newsgathering budget. And it has continued through an ownership change and a media economy that has decim...[INSERT INDUSTRY-WOES BOILERPLATE HERE.]

Now, Leonsis is a Vice Chairman Emeritus at AOL, having bagged his day-to-day role with the company at the end of 2006. If there’s a guy out there who should appreciate the value of someone—like a modern editor—who knows how to cut the payroll, it’s gotta be Leonsis. Look at AOL’s history on this front—to search the Web for info on layoffs and AOL is to drown in data overload. Two-thousand heads here, another 1,200 there, and another 450 there. One fellow has it all charted out.

So here’s the point, Leonsis– who's going to fire the reporters and interns and designers if there are no editors?

Another point: You need an editor, Leonsis. Just take the following sentence from your save-the-newspaper entry:

“It will never be cheaper and easier than it is today to get consumers to carry your info and reach their audiences as it is today.”

I’ve bolded a terrible redundancy in there for you, Leonsis. Please fix your entry and re-file ASAP.

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  • charles raymond

    brilliant and funny. you should be a writer.

  • Ernest

    Just go, Erik.

  • John Maggs

    I appreciate the gallows humor in the column. How are you? What's happened to Murray? No one seems to know what he's up to.

  • billy boy

    It's still a terrible sentence.

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