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8 Lessons Learned as EthicsDaily.com’s Managing Editor

I began my work as EthicsDaily.com’s managing editor in January 2013, following the excellent tenure of Cliff Vaughn in this position.

Several lessons have stood out in reflecting on the past two years. While the details are unique to my role, the broad points are applicable to other leadership roles. Here are eight lessons:

1. Editing is an art not a science.

Every editor’s approach and style is unique. It takes time to determine the approach that best fits your personality, works well with writers and aligns with your organization’s approach. Forming a positive give-and-take relationship with contributors that is based on mutual respect and trust takes time, but this is vital to producing quality content.

2. Quality is more important than quantity.

A quantitative approach isn’t selective, posting almost every submission and not taking the time to do any editing. This is akin to throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks; observers will wonder why you did that and there is a mess to clean up afterward.

3. Prioritize content over style.

If a submission contains quality content but needs some revisions to help communicate the message more effectively, take the time to do so. Most contributors are grateful for an editor who is engaged enough to offer revisions, even significant rewrites, on occasion, if necessary.

Frame your revisions as suggestions when possible, though be sure to note when a change is necessary for the column to be published on your platform. This process is mutually beneficial, as it provides opportunity for dialogue that improves the skills of the writer and editor and results in a more polished final product.

4. Pay careful attention to detail.

Almost every submission needs revision, correcting grammar mistakes and typos at a minimum. Attention to detail is essential. It reflects poorly on the editor, the writer and the organization when content is posted that regularly contains obvious errors.

5. Stay informed.

You need to be “read in” on global news, events and commentary in order to construct a balanced view from which to assess submissions. Here are a few tips for staying informed:

â— Read from a number of news sources to avoid forming an unbalanced, ideologically driven perspective.

â— Read news stories from the Associated Press or other trusted news agencies before reading or watching commentary on the events.

â— Watch the White House and state department press briefings, available on CSPAN.com, to keep up with the main talking points on key events.

â— Use Twitter to stay informed by following people who tweet links to news and opinion pieces regularly. EthicsDaily.com’s ethics tweets list is a good place to start.

6. Know your audience.

For a Baptist organization like EthicsDaily.com, we work within a framework of providing biblically based resources to moderate Christians, with a strong emphasis on Baptists. This provides freedom and constraint, both of which are essential to success.

7. Content needs to be diverse.

There are many topics, issues and perspectives to address each week, even within a niche market like Baptist and Christian news and commentary.

Be sure that an effort to thoroughly cover a topic does not become an obsessive focus on a single issue. Engaged readers are quick to recognize the difference and will quickly tire of the latter.

8. Say thanks regularly.

With a small staff operating on a limited budget, we rely on the financial contributions of individuals and foundations to support much of our work, as well as on writers, photographers and videographers who donate their time, skills, insights and financial support.

Our staff sincerely appreciates the various means of support we receive from our readers – financial donations, column submissions, raw video footage, pictures, re-tweets, “likes” and shares on Facebook, follows on Pinterest and Vimeo, e-newsletter subscriptions, and the list could go on.

We enter this new year energized and excited for what is in store, as we continue, with your help, to provide reliable, constructive, biblically based resources that advance the common good.

Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachDawes_Jr.