Darren the reporter versus Darren the editor
Two sides of the same journalist slug it out over a piece of copy.
I’m Darren Samuelsohn, and thank you for reading love, journalism. Today’s post is a bit… different.
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I wrote this essay earlier this year while trying to figure out what I wanted to do next after my last journalism job came to an end.
I’d been struggling with a question I kept getting from potential employers and even as I contemplated launching this Substack: Did I want to be a reporter or editor?
It’s a common enough dilemma for journalists, and one where I could make a pretty strong case either way. I also wondered how I could do both. The following vignette is what ended up in my notebook
“Help! I’m a writer trapped inside an editor who’s trapped inside a writer!,” Darren, the writer, complained to himself. “Seriously, help me! The editor in me won’t publish the writer in me and it’s plainly unfair.”
“Well, finish something,” snapped Darren the editor, talking to himself.
Darren the writer glared at Darren the editor, in as much as this all is happening inside Darren’s head.
“I am finished,” replied Darren the writer, looking over at a spiral notebook sitting on his desk, the sixth one he’d filled since Halloween. “What on Earth are you waiting for?”
Editor Darren paused for a moment.
He didn’t want to upset Darren the writer, who like all writers needs a good bit of encouragement.
He also wanted to remind Darren the writer that it was Darren the editor who for the last few years had been the one pulling most of the weight, earning the salary and doing the work.
“We're going to need a green light from the publisher,” Darren the editor finally said, looking for an easy way out of this conversation.
Writer Darren again glared at Darren the editor.
He knew a lame excuse when he heard one. Before editor Darren got a job editing, it had been writer Darren who had done all the work there for a good 20 years. There had been entire presidential administrations where Darren the writer had been the one writing, three or four times a day.
Writer Darren told editor Darren how he’d been talking with other writers who were using this thing called Substack. They’d made a pretty compelling argument about how editors and publishers didn’t have anywhere near the control they once did over their writers.
“It’s 2023,” Darren the writer said to Darren the editor. “Go tell that to ‘your publisher’.”
Darren the editor considered taking a swing at Darren the writer.
He was trying to help Darren the writer. It still wasn’t clear if and when either one would get a job where one or the other would be the one responsible for most of the work. Both possibilities were possible, and for the most part the people hiring for those jobs wanted one or the other. Not both.
Darren the editor worried about what Darren the writer would write, and what that could do for Darren the editor’s job prospects.
Darren the editor also didn’t want to make Darren the writer so upset that they’d stop talking. Writers are sensitive and anything, anything, ANYTHING, could send a writer off into a sad lonely self-deprecating place.
Technically, they also were the same Darren. They were eventually going to have to work together and reach a decision.
Both were good at what they did and maybe at this stage of life and career it was possible to be both.
Darren the editor trusted Darren the writer. He also knew he’d get a crack at reviewing, editing and revising Darren the writer.
Darren the editor wanted to be a writer too. And Darren the editor knew that for Darren the writer to have any success he’d need some room. So Darren the editor picked up the phone and made some calls to people who knew a thing or two about Substack. He studied the links Darren the writer shared. Soon Darren the editor had too many tabs open.
“Go! 500 words,” Darren the editor relented to Darren the writer. “Make it good.”
Darren, the writer, filed a story with 579 words.
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