Desk Editor: Job Description, Salary and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a desk editor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling and job responsibilities to find out if this is the career for you.

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Desk editors are responsible for the news stories covered by their media outlets. They are typically required to have a degree in English, journalism, or a related area, although some employers may consider hiring individuals with practical experience. Desk editors must be capable of multitasking, assessing news tips, and making quick decisions when breaking news is reported to ensure that their news outlet provides the best possible coverage.

Essential Information

A desk editor works in a print or broadcast journalism newsroom to gather news tips, assign stories to writers and reporters, and edit the final product before publication or broadcast. A desk editor position usually requires a four-year degree and job experience as a writer, reporter, or copy editor.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -5% (editors in all industries)
Average Salary (2015)* $64,910 (editors in all industries)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Desk Editor

A desk editor, also known as an assignment editor, manages and delegates the coverage of news items for print, broadcast, or online news media. Desk editors monitor wire services, police scanners, newsroom telephones, and Internet sources to gather leads on possible news stories. Because of their involvement in providing the community with accurate and relevant news coverage, many desk editors have established contacts with civic or political leaders, law enforcement, community organizations, and other reliable sources of information. Upon deciding what will be covered, desk editors assign coverage to reporters, writers, photographers, and other news team members, working quickly to ensure that they will be able to meet deadlines.

Desk or assignment editors monitor the status of news teams and coordinate the coverage of multiple stories at once, which requires organization and management skills. As the publication or broadcast deadline nears, desk editors at print outlets edit and review completed work, check for accuracy, select photographs, and correct errors. Desk editors at broadcast news outlets may need to write stories, edit video, and check facts with sources. They may make decisions regarding the final layout or content of the publication or broadcast, adding or dropping material as needed.

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Desk Editor Salary Information

According to May 2015 salary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), editors of all types earned an average yearly salary of $64,910. More specifically, editors of print publications, such as newspapers and other periodicals, earned $64,060 per year on average, while those working in television and radio broadcasting garnered average yearly wages totaling $57,930, the BLS said.

Education Requirements to Become a Desk Editor

According to the BLS, editor positions often require a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or a similar communications field because the job requires excellent written and verbal communication skills. In October 2013, positions for assignment and desk editor positions on indicated a bachelor's degree as a preferred qualification, often accompanied by up to five years of professional news experience. Some postings listed a preference for writing and editing experience equivalent to a four-year degree as an acceptable substitute.

Bachelor's degree programs in journalism provide the necessary knowledge base to become a desk editor, because they provide students an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of journalism while also gaining experience in writing news. Students take introductory courses in journalistic principles, print and digital media, newsgathering and writing, editing, reporting, photojournalism, and media ethics. With this background, students become familiarized with the functions of every member of a print or broadcast news team. Internships and co-curricular opportunities with campus media outlets or professional news organizations are commonly included in four-year degree programs, providing hands-on experience working in a newsroom.

Desk editors are employed by print, broadcast, or online media outlets and are tasked with identifying potential news stories and assigning them to a news team. They may also be responsible for reviewing the work prepared by their news teams before it's released. A bachelor's degree in journalism, communications, or English is typically required, though the equivalent experience may sometimes be substituted for a degree.

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