How to be a bad editor-in-chief

We’re actually going to do a session at NYC13 called “How to Be a Bad EIC.”

To get a head start, I asked my colleagues on the College Media Association listserv for their tips on how to stink at being a college media leader.

I got an earful! I’ve collected some of the tips below, in no particular order. I was tempted to summarize, but instead I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

One disclaimer: All this venting does not mean your adviser doesn’t like students. The great majority of stories I hear from advisers are about wonderful, hard-working students who do fantastic work. But it only takes one disastrous leader to leave a mark for years, so everyone has a story. I assure you some EIC somewhere has done all of these things.

Our hope, of course, is that these over-the-top “tips” will help you avoid the much less horrible things you might be tempted to do.  And if you’re applying for a leadership position this spring, maybe this list will help you prepare for those “what would you do if?” questions that pop up in candidate interviews.

(BTW, Mat Cantore, the adviser at Hudson Valley Community College, and I will moderate this session at 2:30 Monday, March 11, in Liberty 1&2. If you  haven’t registered for the convention, hurry! The early-bird rate expires Feb. 4.)


Put lots of photos of yourself in the paper.

For an editor job, don’t hire the student who has applied three times and helps with the paper every week. Instead, hire the student who wowed you in the interview but has never previously walked into the newsroom.

Start production four hours late — and then complain that the paper went to bed four hours late.

Maintain your air of mystery by making sure that when the reporters are in the newsroom, you aren’t.

Invite only your closest friends among the editors to attend news meetings. The rest of the staff would only bog down the conversation with questions and suggestions.

Yell at the student advertising manager for selling too many ads, causing the paper to go up by two pages.

Never, ever say “thank you.”

Do whatever you can to avoid critiques of the paper. When you must endure a critique, be sure to keep the discussion centered on typography.

Never write a story. Constantly complain nobody else is writing theirs.

Show up in the newsroom during coverage of a large event, but play “Minesweeper” on your computer while everyone else works.

Whine about problems. Do nothing to solve them.
Never allow any staff member to critique your work or to question you about anything.
Be a sexist ass.
Cheat on your romantic partner, who is a staff member, with another staff member.
Play your horrible music loudly over the tiny speakers in your computer.
Talk about how frustrating it is to lay out the newspaper around “ALL THESE ADS!”  in front of the advertising manager who just worked his/her ass off selling your newspaper all week.

Threaten to quit if you don’t get your way.

Take ALL of the credit. After all, you’re the boss. Corollary: Take NONE of the blame.

Cover everything your friends do.

Tell your staffers they “work for you.” Nothing inspires teamwork like clarifying the pecking order.

Attempt to win every argument with the answer “Well, I’M the EDITOR-IN- CHIEF!”

Call meetings at inopportune times and then skip them.

Look for every minor mistake possible and point it out loudly in front of others. Typos will disappear if you berate and embarrass people.

End disputes among staffers by decreeing “I don’t give a S*** about WHAT your problem is.”

Eat the last slice of pizza.

Override every editorial decision. Never explain yourself. It is a sign of weakness.

Put your byline on the front page — always. Remember that stories written by others are “poor stories.”

Only cover fun stuff. Covering serious news is hard.

Give the news editor job to your best friend, who has never in fact written a news story, much less coached someone else on how to write one.

Have a very loud and inappropriate newsroom conversation about all of the strange sexual positions you yourself have tried.

Wear clothing that covers less than half your body to a “Summer Welcome” event for incoming freshmen — and their parents. Oh, please arrive painfully hung over also.


About adviserdavid

Student media director, Georgia Southern University

Posted on January 29, 2013, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. 1. Forget that the paper is about informing the students and not about your own interests(20,000+ students have 20,000+ ideas don’t stifle your paper with just one way of thinking)
    2. Never talk or encourage the individual talents and goals of your staff members as a journalists.
    3. Have too many bylines with your name in it(we already know who you are! Open up opportunities for your staff and/or share a byline by helping new staff get acclimated to the process of journalism).
    4. Show favoritism. Period.

  2. Rest on your laurels. At age 21, you’ve paid your dues and shouldn’t have to work too hard.

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