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One with fewer editors, My Luvver

US news
Vice is going bankrupt, BuzzFeed News is dead. What does it mean?
Margaret Sullivan

The standard observation about American journalism is that it is stuffed full of vastly too many layers of editors, tweakers, executives and bureaucrats.

Essentially, US newspapers were local monopilies for most of a century. They grew the bureaucracies common to such. Now the country is – as the UK has been for over a century – effectively the one media market. The American press therefore needs to kill off those layers of nonsense. As the Brits already have done.

The mistake of the new media folk was to think that that old monopoly paid for layer upon layer of editing was and is how journalism works. It isn’t. And that, simply, is what the problem is. Fire somewhere between 75 and 85% of all those who are not actually journalists putting ink to paper and work out where to go from there.

Seriously, I once did a piece for the Washington Post that had three layers of editors making suggestions. All making different ones of course. Back and forth, what about this comma and so on. They also took out my one good joke.

When I’ve written for The Times, or Daily Telegraph, I send something in. The one editor that deals with that section then adjusts to house style, possibly removes a joke or insult, then without even referring to me hits print. Sure, that second is possibly more abusive of fragile journalistic egos but it works as a business system. As the American does not when those monopoly profits disappear.

15 thoughts on “One with fewer editors, My Luvver”

  1. BuzzFeed News suddenly shuttered, leaving scores of extremely talented journalists without employment

    Thankfully, these unemployed journos have lots of valuable transferable skills (giving handjobs for cash outside a Denny’s)

  2. When I used to write for UK magazines, the first time they sent it back with a style guide. I rewrote it to fit and it was published. Initially I’d tried to write by copying the style of existing articles. Everything subsequent was written to the guide. The only tweeks I noticed was them changing my name.

  3. Rev. – was did you included it as an example of Worstall’s law?

    “Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn’t mean?”

  4. Exactly, Longrider. It means – as the Guardian of all rags should know fine well, relying as it does on government want ads – that extruded news-style content doesn’t sell as well as its perpetrators think it should.

  5. I’ve no doubt that Vice and Buzzfeed were overmanned, but the main problem was surely that everything they produced was utter arse?

    I occasionally write for a US magazine – one linked to a worthy industry body rather than a commercial publication – and they have really long run in times. I’ll work to a deadline, send something in and then get the odd query 2 weeks later.

    I sometimes wonder what the writers get paid for those lengthy features which appear in publications like the New Yorker. I read an article about Fiona Apple, based on at least two visits to her home and listening to god knows how much self-obsessed wibble. It was probably 15 pages long (maybe not but felt that way), so at least 5,000 words. Be interested to know what you get for that.

    The Fiona Apple article did have one bit of gold, where she said she’d finally got off cocaine after spending a night on it with Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. Not because the night went to dark places or anything like that, she just finally realised how dull throbbers on coke are.

  6. That sort of outlet, that sort of pieces? $4 or $5 a word perhaps? Tedious shite of course but that’s what American journos want to write, that’s the peak of the profession

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    BuzzFeed News suddenly shuttered, leaving scores of extremely talented journalists without employment

    We know they weren’t talented because:

    1. They stayed there despite the writing being on the wall.
    2. They weren’t poached for much bigger salaries, or they were idiots if they turned it down.-
    3. The author tells us they’re still unemployed.

  8. Ta, Tim. Still decent money: $20-25k a piece. Half a dozen a year would be a decent living. If you can get the commissions.

    About 20 odd years ago I read a New Yorker profile of some alt country artist. The only thing I can remember was the article was about 16 pages long, covering a career in which he’d published about a dozen songs.

  9. Dennis, Unpublished For Obvious Reasons

    The other factors playing into the demise of Vice and Buzzfeed are as follows:

    1) Their content is geared towards a relatively small section of those who consume news: The Ultra-Lefty. Living in their own bubble, management always assumed their target audience was larger than it actually was.
    2) Most of their content wasn’t very good. In fact, quite a bit of it was absolute shit. I remember watching a couple of shows on Vice TV that were absolute cringe. Much of what was on their website wasn’t any better.

  10. Dennis, Your Guide To The USA

    Timmy –

    U.S. journalism needs layers of editors largely because the journos they’ve hired don’t know how to write. Remember what Amanda Marcotte wrote like when she was at Pandagon? Every week I posted “This week’s Amanduh Sentence”, just so everyone could have a good laugh at how badly she wrote (as opposed to how badly she thought). There was never a lack of 100+ word sentences in her bizarre, grammar and syntax be damned style. And yet, there was Salon to hire her. Not because she wrote well, but because she had a relatively large following (there are a lot of semi-literate lefties out there, you know). The kicker? Marcotte graduated from college with honors and an English degree.

    U.S. news outlets need all the editors they can get, because as bad as U.S. journalism is, the U.S. education system is worse.

  11. So what was the “one good joke” the editors removed ? Enquiring minds want to hear it !

  12. Good is a relative term of course. But talking about separating uranium into U- Bang and U- not bang.

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