A desk editor may work at a book publishing house or a publication such as a magazine or newspaper. He or she is often a managing type of editor, which means being responsible for a team of juniors. The overall management of the editing desk is the position's main duty. A desk editor is usually responsible for ensuring that a publication is completed to quality standards as well as for delegating assignments to those who report to him or her.
For example, a newspaper's desk editor may give out assignments to reporters on a regular basis or during breaking news stories. Desk editors at a book publisher may delegate tasks to assistants. Yet, whether this senior editor delegates the work or does it, he or she always has the ultimate responsibility for making sure all of the issues the publication puts out are error-free. Not only that, desk editors must ensure that everything fits in with house style, which means the particular design and look of the individual publication.
Working under pressure is a reality for most desk editors. In addition to managing staff and overseeing the quality standards of every issue, these editors have to read everything that comes across the editing desk as well as communicate between different departments. For instance, desk editors may consult with marketing departments about book cover designs or newspaper advertising supplements. A desk editor always has publishing deadlines to meet and is responsible for making sure they're met.
A lot of work typically comes across the editing desk for approval or development by the managing editor. If a written piece needs to be improved or developed further, the desk editor will choose whether to complete it or give the task to an assistant. Desk editors must be able to deal effectively with authors. They must be able to communicate information to authors about deadline dates and writing style guidelines. While editorial assistants may correct the author's initial work, the desk editor oversees the process to be sure the publication's standards are being met.
A desk editor is typically passionate about the written word. He or she must have excellent spelling, punctuation and grammar. At least a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, communications or a related subject is usually needed to become an editor. Some desk editors begin as writers, then get more involved in tasks such as fact-checking and proofreading. Becoming a supervising editor may eventually lead into a managing role in charge of the editing desk.