How do I Become a Desk Editor?

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  • Written By: Paul Woods
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2019
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To become a desk editor at a newspaper requires an appropriate combination of training, skill, experience and opportunity. While not mandatory, a person desiring to work as a desk editor should begin by earning a university degree in journalism. Working as a reporter is the typical second step, where the prospective editor can demonstrate the ability to gather facts, put them in story form and adhere to correct editorial style. As the reporter develops these skills and gains experience, he or she needs to cultivate relationships with editors on the newspaper, demonstrate to the extent possible the qualities of an editor and apply for available openings.

Journalism is a career field that has grown in complexity and sophistication driven both by an increasingly educated and demanding readership and technological advances, particularly related to the Internet. A university degree is usually expected for even entry-level position in a newspaper’s editorial department. While a variety of majors are acceptable, including English, history and political science, a journalism degree is considered an advantage in entering the field.


In almost every case, to become a desk editor requires successful reporting experience. Improving the chance of becoming a desk editor can begin with demonstrating an ability to gather pertinent facts for a variety of story assignments; to use those facts as the basis for a well-written story; and to demonstrate expertise in spelling, grammar, punctuation and style. Most newspapers in the United States use the Associated Press style guide, and mastery of it is expected.

After demonstrating proficiency in reporting and writing, the person who wants to become a desk editor should let the newspaper’s managers know of this desire. Newspaper editors often will allow reporters who want to become a desk editor to edit their peers, particularly if the editing staff is overloaded. This is an excellent place to demonstrate proficiency in the skills required of an editor and to learn where improvements need to be made.

At many papers each section — news, sports, features and business — may have its own editing desk. Be aware of openings in all sections as promotions are not always within specific departments. To become a desk editor, it is good to gain a breadth of reporting experience in a variety of coverage areas if possible. It is similarly beneficial to develop relationships with editors so that they are aware of a reporter’s skill level and desire for advancement. Keep a current resume prepared; tailor it and submit it as openings are available.



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