The Wheeler Centre
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Mandy Brett on Why the World Needs Editors Even if it Doesn't Need Books
In this video, Mandy Brett takes to Lunchbox/Soapbox to consider the future for those whom we notice least when they’re most effective: editors.
Holding a Kindle, an iPad and a smartphone, Brett opens by acknowledging that “big changes are coming in how we read, not necessarily in what we read.” She points to the rudimentary functioning of new reading technologies and the familiar writing format they cater to: “one page after another of long form narrative, or short form if that’s what you put on it.”
Continuing, Brett assures us that the future of reading is not under immediate threat. However, the future of good writing may be less assured. Pointing to Fairfax Media’s recent outsourcing of subediting to Pagemasters, she argues that if saving money is “not at the expense of quality, then that’s just a happy accident”.
She goes on to assert that to undermine editorial value in publishing is to send the message that the work of an editor is neither “crucially important nor particularly skilled, and it’s a move that fails to understand the importance for any writer of having somebody look at your work.”
However, Brett is clear in distinguishing newspapers from the world of books. As she goes on, she admits that some regard editors with contempt, and understand their position purely in terms of acquisition and gatekeeping. She underlines the fact that writing a good book is a difficult thing to do, and that few understand the important role played by editors, whose job is essentially “invisible”. In other words, that many fall toward the mistaken assumption that a book’s quality comes solely from its author.
The key is quality, which Brett suggests we take for granted: but once it’s gone, it’s too late. “It’s a really fine thing to have solid values and high aspirations,” she says. “It’s great, but we all feel disappointment when we know that we’re falling short.”