What does an editor do
So this is the editors' blog. But what do we mean by "editor"?
The first thing to note is that the person who edits a particular edition of a programme - what we call "the output editor" - is not necessarily "the Editor".
So what's the difference?
As with all the best questions the honest answer is - it depends. On some programmes, there's less difference than on others - often the Editor will be the output editor on any particular day. But in broad terms, the output editor is responsible for one edition of a programme; the Editor for the programme, and the team, over time.
So what does being responsible "over time" mean ?
Every programme has a programme remit - a description of the programme, its key features and in particular the features that make it original and distinctive. Some are written down, though most programme remits are less formally set out and often agreed only verbally with Department Heads. That doesn't make them any less binding on the Editor. Recently, objectives dealing with aspects such as audience size and appreciation have supplemented or even superseded formal programme remits.
In addition to these, all Editors set themselves objectives when they get the job. The selection process demands detailed pitch which can include anything from changes in programme agenda and tone, to changes of presenters or personnel - or even what shouldn't be changed.
The tools the Editor has are limited. Money is one; you have to manage the programme budget - which includes the annual argument for more (you always end up with less) as well as making it all add up at the end of the financial year, having spent a proportion of it on things intended to achieve your objectives. Staff is another; you appoint - or supervise the appointment of - staff, appraise them, decide who does what on the programme, give them feedback and advise them on their performance.
The other tools - the really powerful ones - are less easily defined. Influence... setting the programme weather... stalking the floor... hunting down inaccuracies... generating an atmosphere where originality can flourish... spotting flair and encouraging it... spotting bad habits and discouraging them... knowing whose case you need to be on, who you can cut a bit of slack. And dealing with The Talent - the presenters, the real power-mongers in the BBC.
And Editors will have influence over programme decisions, though different Editors have different approaches. Clearly, as Editor you have to make the calls on the big, risky stories. And you have to have the means in place to make sure you know all you need to know before making those big calls; and the nous to know when someone on an even higher grade than yourself should be aware of the risks you're about to take on the BBC's behalf.
But you can't - and shouldn't - make every decision. Though you do have to be prepared to take the rap for decisions made in your absence or ignorance, even if you'd have made a different one based on the same facts. There are two phrases no Editor should ever use outside the programme. "It wasn't my fault" is one. "I didn't know" is the other. Both might be true in fact, but never can be in spirit; and anyway, the skill of the Editor lies in making sure they never are in any sense. It is your fault and you did know. Live with it.
And output editors? In the broadest sense, output editors are responsible for everything that happens on their watch. Which may be anything from a day to a couple of hours. They don't work in a vacuum, though - indeed, it's the Editor's job to make sure they don't. If the programme Editor has done the job properly, output editors will know as clearly as possible the direction they should be taking each edition of the programme.
They'll express that direction by a number of means; they'll choose the lead story and the running order... choose the guests... and the way stories are treated. They'll also be responsible for getting the best out of the team that day; running meetings and discussions creatively... chasing progress and keeping the story in sight. They'll stamp on inaccuracies and keep a mental note of fairness and balance; they'll brief reporters and presenters and give feedback after the programme.
They'll also know when to involve the Editor. Some output editors prefer to avoid discussing anything with the Editor until after transmission; others like to feel they've thrashed out their ideas - and their problems - beforehand. In all cases, though, having antennae for the possible consequences of decisions - consequences that may go way beyond a single edition of the programme - is a key requirement of both output editor and Editor. The first has to know when to consult, the second has to learn how to spot the signs that an apparently straightforward decision might turn out to be anything but.
Which leads to the final responsibility of the Editor; accountability. While the output editor will deal with the small rows around a particular programme - and some are inevitable - it is the Editor who has to explain why decisions were made or how - in spite of evidence to the contrary - the programme did uphold the highest standards and values.
Or if it didn't, apologise.