The best way to get a sense of magazine editing is to work on a high school newspaper or newsletter. You will probably start out as a staff writer, but with time and experience, you may be able to move into an editorial position with more responsibility and freedom to choose the topics to cover. An internship while in college also provides exposure to the magazine field and the different roles and tasks involved. Other ways to learn about the field include reading books about editing, taking a tour of a magazine's editorial offices, and asking your journalism teacher to arrange an information interview with a magazine editor.
The duties of a magazine editor are numerous, varied, and unpredictable. The editor determines each article's placement in the magazine, working closely with the sales, art, and production departments to ensure that the publication's components complement one another and are appealing and readable.
Most magazines focus on a particular topic, such as fashion, news, or sports. Current topics of interest in the magazine's specialty area dictate a magazine's content. In some cases, magazines themselves set trends, generating interest in topics that become popular. Therefore, the editor should know the latest trends in the field that the magazine represents.
Depending on the magazine's size, editors may specialize in a particular area. For example, a fashion magazine may have a beauty editor, features editor, short story editor, and fashion editor. Each editor is responsible for acquiring, proofing, rewriting, and sometimes writing articles.
After determining the magazine's contents, the editor assigns articles to writers and photographers. The editor may have a clear vision of the topic or merely a rough outline. In any case, they supervise the article from writing through production, assisted by copy editors, assistant editors, fact checkers, researchers, and editorial assistants. The editor also sets a department budget and negotiates contracts with freelance writers, photographers, and artists.
The magazine editor reviews each article, checking it for clarity, conciseness, and reader appeal. Frequently, the editor edits the manuscript to highlight particular items. Sometimes the magazine editor writes an editorial to stimulate discussion or mold public opinion. They also may write articles on topics of personal interest.
Other editorial positions at magazines include the editor in chief, who is responsible for the overall editorial course of the magazine, the executive editor, who controls day-to-day scheduling and operations, and the managing editor, who coordinates copy flow and supervises production of master pages for each issue.
Many magazines now have a presence on the Web; some are only available online. As magazine publishers create online and mobile editions, online editors have come to play a crucial role at magazines. This type of editor selects and updates online content (text, audio, video) as well as coordinates the graphic look of the pages. They are sometimes called multimedia editors. Online editors may be supervised by online producers. They also work for television and radio stations that have a presence on the Web.
Some entry-level jobs in magazine editorial departments are stepping-stones to more responsible positions. Editorial assistants perform various tasks such as answering phones and correspondence, setting up meetings and photography shoots, checking facts, and typing manuscripts. Editorial production assistants assist in coordinating the layout of feature articles edited by editors and art designed by art directors to prepare the magazine for printing.
Many magazines hire freelance writers to write articles on an assignment or contract basis. Most freelance writers write for several different publications; some become contributing editors to one or more publications to which they contribute the bulk of their work.
Magazines also employ researchers, sometimes called fact checkers, to ensure the factual accuracy of an article's content. Researchers may be on staff or hired on a freelance basis.