There is usually one person in each online newsroom with responsibility for managing the site.
This person controls what appears on the front page and how it is laid out.
They decide what stories should be covered, what features should be written, what talking points and votes should be created, and what audio and video will be featured.
Depending on the content management system (CMS) being used by the news organisation, this person could also be responsible for selecting which images appear on the front page.
The person responsible for the site’s editorial content has enormous responsibility. S/he decides what stories the users see.
The presentation of the stories they select carries with it the reputation of the news brand. A shabby, unfocused, mistake-strewn site will reflect badly on the news organisation.
Errors in presentation, ambiguous headlines, badly captioned images, the juxtaposition of conflicting messages can and will often be saved and stored as a record of major mistakes.
There is no use taking the view that you can always correct your errors. You can, but a damaging screen grab might already have been taken. You need to do your job aware that every word you write and every decision you make is reflected online forever.
In a small newsroom, this responsibility is sometimes shared between the journalists writing for the site. In a large news operation, there will often be one person, or shift of people, who perform this function.
Some of the titles used to describe this role include duty editor, day editor, and chief sub. For the sake of this module, let’s call this person the duty editor.
The duty editor’s job is to ensure that the news is covered properly, that it is delivered on time, and that it is created to the standards set out in the editorial guidelines of the news organisation. They also decide what the user will or will not see.
Think of it like a shop window.
The duty editor is like a shopkeeper who sets up a display in order to attract customers.
If the items are hidden, or badly displayed, the customer might miss them. In a way, a news website is similar.
The duty editor, who acts like a shopkeeper of information, sets out the stall.
If an item is not on display, or is displayed badly, the user has to ask if it is there by turning to the site’s search engine.
Remember, users will be clicking on the website expecting to see what their trusted news organisation has to say on an issue.
The person who controls that information carries a huge responsibility, not only for representing the brand properly, but also in delivering what matters to the user.
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Media Helping Media IJNet’s partner, Media Helping Media (MHM), a training information site that provides free media resources for journalists working in transition states, post-conflict countries and areas where freedom of expression and media freedom is under threat. The complete article is translated in full into IJNet’s six other languages with permission from Media Helping Media.