The Inverted Pyramid
One thing I forget about my job from time to time is that it’s really a teaching job. I would like to think that, as editor in chief of a magazine, I shouldn’t have to teach people—but that was the approach that bothered me when I was on the other side of it. Case in point, in Queens the publishers of the paper didn’t like a lot of the editorials I wrote in my early years, telling me to do it “better” without giving me specific instructions. Their view was: We’re hiring professional journalists, so be “more professional” and do it better. Now that I’m on the other side of it, and I’m the one supervising people in their first journalism jobs, I realize that taking the easy way out and being vague about what you want is a great strategy if you really have no investment in the final product… or something less than full investment. I want my magazine to be good, but I’m not a maniac about it simply because the topics don’t really lend themselves to mania (It’s rather ho-hum business stuff that blooms with pretty pictures, which are the important things to get.) Still, I need to try harder to tell my assistant exactly what I need when her stories aren’t to their potential, and why, and right now she has a quirk that I used to have: Building to the lede instead of building from it. The thing is, it’s not really her fault. It’s hard to know what’s really important in the weird business I cover, and she’s learning about as fast as I did, if not faster. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have learned faster here with some detailed instruction… and, in fact, I find myself lapsing into the exact same pattern that my boss imposed on me of passive-aggressiveness. My new goal is instead of building up to telling her that her article is wrong, just tell her it’s wrong and go from there. It’s the only way to work.