Reverse POV

Last year I got a call from a journalist in New Zealand named Charles Anderson who wanted to do something radical: pay me out of his own pocket to edit a multimedia feature he was doing for Fairfax Media on the search for a plane that had been lost for 85 years a la Amelia Earhart. Charles just emailed me to let me know the resulting piece, a glorious use of digital technology to tell a story in multiple dimensions, has just won a big national award for journalistic innovation. But what I found most interesting was a link he sent of an interview he gave describing the process of working with me — a rare glimpse from the other side of an editing project:

When I was working on it, this guy Tom Shroder, who’d edited Gene Weingarten – a Washington Post writer who’d won two Pulitzers – I saw he’d been made redundant and was a gun for hire editing whatever. I thought it would be great to have someone of that calibre edit your work. He said sure. I did it out of my own pocket, but you get to a stage where if you want to be better at something then you want someone to be pretty critical and somebody who’s got experience like that is pretty invaluable.

That was a really interesting editing process, because I had about 6000 words in the final draft to him, and we had about eight back-and-forths and he would just go through the whole thing and have screeds of notes and questions. Everything had to be explained and qualified and it made me realise that the reader isn’t stupid, but they do need to be led along a path and everything has to be easy to understand. It’s a lot easier to read if it’s just effortless because everything makes perfect sense in their minds.

The final draft was 8000 words, so editing wasn’t necessarily cutting down; it was making it more intelligible and readable.

It was nice when it came out, because you want to promote it, and being able to say he edited it gave it some credence in the States. It wasn’t just some hack at the bottom of the world.


Read the piece: Charles Anderson is no hack.



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