Results tagged “Sharon Waxman” from ARTicles

When a publication lays off a batch of key employees, the editor has to say something in an attempt to soothe the staffers who remain. Still, as reassurances go, "Today's changes won't be noticed by readers" is unlikely to pass muster. That's what editor Tim Gray told the survivors at troubled Variety yesterday after he laid off chief film critic Todd McCarthy, chief theater critic David Rooney, film critic Derek Elley and "features editor/indie film reporter Sharon Swart, along with several copy and design desk employees," according to TheWrap.

Even if the three critics take Gray up on his offer to let them continue as freelancers, there's no question that readers will notice the difference. Using what has become boilerplate language for media industry budget cutters, Gray told survivors in a memo, "Our goal is the same: To maintain, or improve, our quality coverage." A laudable ambition, but firing people is a thoroughly unrealistic way of attempting to reach it, as editors and publishers well know. What's remarkable is that, as long as they're dealing in fantasy, they don't come up with better talking points.

The issue is not solely one of skilled, experienced critics being cut loose -- though McCarthy, a 31-year veteran of Variety, speaks eloquently to that in an interview with Sharon Waxman. There's also the matter of what happens behind the scenes. Newspapers never have had fact-checkers as such, but good editors and copy editors serve that function, and they've saved many a writer's butt from inaccuracies, inadvertently libelous statements, and general sloppiness. Of course, it helps immensely when those editors know the writers, and therefore know what to look out for. With fewer editors, and freelancers rather than staff writers, the holes in the safety net get larger, and the publication suffers. That can get expensive. For a current case study from a related industry, see publishing's "The Last Train From Hiroshima" debacle.

March 9, 2010 9:44 AM |

This is the first in a weekly series of interviews with editors.

Waxman headshot.jpg

Sharon Waxman made her name as a journalist in the print world. The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and New York Times have carried her byline. She is also the author of "Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World," about illicit antiquities, and of "Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System," about the 1990s generation of auteurs. Now Waxman is editor in chief of TheWrap.com, which launched in January 2009 and covers the entertainment business. You've known editors like Waxman: high-energy, hardworking, forward-moving. She's not only editor at TheWrap. She's also a reporter and the CEO. I caught her between a celebrity funeral and a Los Angeles dinner party, at the height of Oscar season. As they say in her town: It was all good. And I got to edit her this time -- that is, what follows is an edited version of our phone conversation.

When you decided to make the leap from reporter to editor, what was that like?

Becoming an editor absolutely seemed like a natural thing to do at this stage in my life because it's very hard for young journalists to find a place to learn about how to be a journalist and to have someone who can teach them the things they know. And I'm in a stage where I would like to give over what I know. I'm also concerned about the fact that, as newsrooms disintegrate, there are very few places for people to learn the basics of journalism, to make mistakes and to have someone help them avoid some mistakes that can become career killers.

March 3, 2010 12:00 AM |


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