An Editor is a ‘man’ of many parts
Have you ever wondered what the Editor of a newspaper does! To set your mind at ease, the Editor manages the newsroom.
Basically, he or she supervises in the editing of stories and articles, help influence story or article selection and review as well as organise them for publication in the newspaper.
Moreover, if the newspaper company is a big establishment like the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), where there are six different newspaper publications, namely; the Daily Graphic, The Mirror; the Junior Graphic; Graphic Business, Graphic Showbiz; Graphic Sports, and the digital platforms - Graphic Online and NewsPlus -, then the role of the Editor is a big one indeed!
Vincent Kobby Asmah is the Editor, Graphic at the GCGL and today, he takes us through what his work entails. Being Editor, Graphic means he is the Editor of the Daily Graphic and also, the head of the News Department which includes the Photo, Proof Reading and Design units.
Tell us about a normal day at work
Being the Editor of the leading newspaper in Ghana, the Daily Graphic and the Head of the News Department for all the newspaper brands of the GCGL, my work is more or less a 24-hour job. Very stretchy to attain. It is a zero tolerance to miss out on anything and so I am always on the lookout for compelling and exclusive news content which will inform, educate and if you like entertain our diverse readers.
You need to be highly informed by monitoring and listening from dawn to dusk the local and foreign news. At the office in the morning, I peer-review other newspapers to compare and contrast how we fared in the business of gathering and dissemination news.
This helps to put us in a better stead to prepare for the next publication.
As one of the critical leaders in the media space, we have a zero tolerance to miss out on any story but if we do, there is always an opportunity to catch up by looking at the follow up angles to the story, background, analyses, speaking to experts and authorities with deep knowledge about the subject matter to educate our readers.
After peer-reviewing, I attend executive management meetings representing the news department to discuss matters affecting the department, find solutions to corporate challenges and take forward looking policy decisions.
We do also have brand editors, strategy and production meetings which are chaired by me. At the brand editors meeting we discuss what stories the various weekly papers would be publishing in the various papers as well as make suggestions on what needs to be done in their respective newspapers.
In the afternoon every day, around 1: 30 p.m., the members of the editorial conference that is the news editor, sub editor, page editors, head of proofreading, photo editor and online editor meet to discuss the news stories that the news editor has gathered across the country. I chair this meeting as well. Here, the news editor reads out the stories, the chief sub editor selects the stories and then the other members help to select pages the stories should be published on. If selecting pages for the stories become difficult, they vote.
I don’t take part in selecting the stories because I believe the Editor must give room for the chain to effectively function. However, if they are still undecided, I make the final decision for the day because I am answerable to everything published in the paper, including answering queries around advertisements.
What influences the selection of stories
What constitute news is one of the measures we use in determining what story to publish and on what page. So clearly stories of national interest, human interest, proximity, relevance, timeliness are what we look out for before selecting the stories.
Since the company is state-owed, we make sure all our major news stories are national in character. So the government, religious bodies, business communities, opinion leaders, academia, political parties, children etc., have a huge stake in the papers and, therefore, must be served equitably.
What are the challenges in this job?
First of all, we are in the digital world and our business has moved away from the pen and paper era and now hinged on high level technology, therefore, as the Editor, I have to provide reporters with working devices such as high definition cameras, mobile phones, computers etc., to work with efficiently.
The mantra of the News Department is ‘Truthfulness and Accuracy Every Day’ so the Editor has to ensure that whatever information the paper is publishing is nothing but verified truth. In the media industry, your product will only remain relevant if people trust and believe in the information you churn out.
If your papers continuously publish false or wrong information, you lose credibility so we take pains to verify our stories for all our newspapers before we publish them and this is done by speaking to multiple sources. This process normally takes time but it is better to be trusted than be the first to break the news and yet you got it all false or wrong.
What is interesting about your work?
You never cease thinking on this job. Even when production is done late evening you still will be thinking of headlines and how better a story could have been crafted. This is because you are always looking for ways to improve an article or headline. Even when I am on my way home at around 10:00 p.m., I would still be thinking about how a headline has been couched and sometimes call the Night Editor to implement a new thinking.
As an Editor of such a big corporate institution like the GCGL, you also get to know a lot of people from diverse walks of life which is a privilege in many forms. From the highest office of the President to the newspaper street vendor you have great mentors, brothers, friends and sources.
So journalism is a good profession though demanding. There is little social life and many a time you have to work on weekends when most people are having fun. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is interested but of course, you have to be prepared and learn every day; it has its own ups and downs.
You also have to make sure that you are a very good role model, not only to your family, but society as well. I am the face of all these papers so my life has to be exemplary.
As a journalist, you must be measured and accommodating, you must welcome criticisms as good pointers, whether it is palatable or not.
I have risen through the ranks from a young reporter to the Foreign Editor, then the Political Editor to Editor Daily Graphic and now Editor, Graphic. I think I have paid my dues and continue to pay my dues to God and Mother Ghana. Whatever the regrets, they are good learning curves.