This list of books, articles and Web sites has been compiled by Carl Sessions Stepp, a former assigning editor and now journalism professor at the University of Maryland.

Books About Editing

Media Management Center
– Northwestern University
"Caught in the Middle: How to Improve the Lives and Performance of Newspaper Middle Managers," by Sharon L. Peters. Published in 1999 and now downloadable from Northwestern’s

Peters surveyed more than 500 journalists and wrote about the problems of midlevel editors from their perspective and also the views of their managers and their reporters. Great insights into the problems and some suggestions for help.

"Coaching Writers: Editors and Reporters Working Together Across Media Platforms," second edition, by Roy Peter Clark and Don Fry. Best book of its kind. Clark and Fry have been promoting collegial editing for two decades, and the book is full of wisdom, humor and hands-on techniques.

"Editing for Today’s Newsroom: New Perspectives for a Changing Profession," by Carl Sessions Stepp. Out-of-date in terms of technology, but still somewhat useful in advising assigning editors on how they can make better decisions about everything from copy to coaching to ethics.

"The Editorial Eye," second edition, by Jane T. Harrigan and Karen Brown Dunlap. Mostly for copyeditors, but includes friendly and helpful insights into "the big picture" of editing.

"The Effective Editor: How to Lead Your Staff to Better Writing and Better Teamwork," by Foster Davis and Karen Dunlap. Slender volume filled with good humor and good sense, mainly about working with writers but with additional overall advice for the beginning assigning editor.

"Newsroom Management: A Guide to Theory and Practice," by Robert H. Giles. Hefty guide, pitched more toward top than midlevel managers, but full of guidance on motivating and supervising.

Books About Editors

One can gain inspiration and insight by reading almost any editor’s biography or autobiography. The books below also contain material that is immediately and directly useful, including practical descriptions of editing style and methods, both good and horrid. —CSS

"Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker," by Thomas Kunkel. This book, written by my current dean at Maryland, looks not just at what the master editor Ross did, but at how. Every editor can learn from this book.

"Max Perkins: Editor of Genius," by A. Scott Berg. An in-depth look at the editor behind Fitzgerald, Hemingway and others. Not really journalistic, but inspiring anyway.

"The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder, and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism," by James McGrath Morris. Charles Chapin was almost certainly the meanest city editor who ever lived (he died in prison after killing his wife). He was born to chase the news and had much success, but at a very high cost. A good book about a bad example.

Books About Managing and Leadership

These are not directed primarily to journalists, but are among the most often recommended by top editors and trainers. The titles are pretty much self-explanatory. —CSS

"First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently" by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

"Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

"Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership" by James A. Autry.

"Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership" by Richard Farson.

"Time Management for Dummies" by Jeffrey J. Mayer.

"You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation" by Deborah Tannen.


American Society of Newspaper Editors Web site
All the journalism trade magazines deal with midlevel editors from time to time. One publication that has done so regularly is The American Editor, published by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It frequently runs articles on pertinent topics such as writing, ethics and leadership. Fortunately, content from the past several years is available on the ASNE Web site. Unfortunately, the searching is rudimentary, so you have to know what you want or be willing to skim a lot of article titles. —CSS

Web Resources  Targeted at journalism broadly but with some useful articles and links for midlevel editors. Example: "Critical Thinking Checklist."   Site of the American Copy Editors Society, it provides good links, discussions and other resources. For example, click on "site features," then "resources" and read a long list of interesting articles, such as Jane Harrigan’s "Why Editing Is Cool."   Affiliated with the Project for Excellence in Journalism, this site has links and full texts of research reports and articles, including such practical ones as "Ten Tips on Time Management."   In its infancy, as is its host, the new Society of Metro Editors. Great potential here for discussions, links and resources.   Run by writing coach and former Los Angeles Times editor Bob Baker. Outstanding material on how to find, write and help others write great stories. Try Susan Ager’s "A Vocabulary List for Reporters and Editors" or Laurie Hertzel’s "Yeah, I’m Defensive. You Gotta Problem With That?"   Gold mine. Newspaper trainers site, with links, exercises and tip sheets galore. Try Steve Buttry’s "Helping Reporters Improve Stories" or Michael Roberts’ "A Six-Month Program for Line Editors."   A varied and constantly evolving site, geared more toward writers, but with numerous relevant essays and tip sheets on editing, coaching and leading.   Comprehensive collection of research from Northwestern’s Readership Institute. Lots of studies and reports, plus examples of how papers are applying what is being learned.

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