Magazine Editing: How to develop and manage a successful publication

by John Morrish (London: Routledge, 2nd ed. 2003): 266pp  (pbk), £27.99 (3rd ed.), ISBN 0 415 30381 8.

Reviewed by Penny Poole

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Fancy your chances as a plate spinner? There's no need to run away and join the circus – just stay at your desk and edit a magazine. You'll get to play a balancing act, have a crowd to please and acquire a new set of virtual crockery each quarter!

Author John Morrish has impeccable credentials, as former editor of Time Out, commissioning editor on the Telegraph magazines and sub-editor on Private Eye. His approach is thorough and his style is highly readable. For this reason, the book is helpful if you're thinking about career development from 'straightforward' copy editing towards the more strategic management role that is magazine editing.

Daunting skills and tasks

And this is where the plate spinning comes in. Although there's an element of predictability about a regularly published magazine, the range of skills required of its editor and the tasks that he or she must simultaneously perform can daunt even the most energetic and resourceful individual.

As well as constantly coming up with new and entertaining content for your readers, you could be expected to oversee the publication's growth and development and take charge of production. As a manager, you may find yourself responsible for recruiting a team of editorial support staff and chivvying contributors, while also trying to accommodate the eccentricities and power politics of an editorial director.

Lion tamer

I found the sections on editorial strategy and commissioning particularly interesting, ditto the discussion about the thorny subject of advertorials. The graphics are basic but useful, including copy-flow diagrams and flat-plans. The glossary is well constructed.

Former editor of the Radio Times Nicholas Brett is quoted thus: 'Cherish and serve your readers and you won't go far wrong.' This makes the role of magazine editor sound a bit tame. Lion tamer more like.

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