I remember a conversation I had with a friend when we were studying journalism together. Anjum* was an aspiring reporter who was known for his humility and love for films.
I donít recall the exact conversation but something he said indicated that he viewed editing as inferior to reporting. It was only later I sensed that the hierarchy between reporters and editors is an unsaid and accepted notion. At that time, I was offended because my friend had devalued the one thing I liked in that course, i.e editing. I never went to a journalism school because I wanted to be a reporter. My ambition then was to simply write on films one day.
In fact, all my choices to do with education have been unconventional. I never studied literature because I wanted to be a critic or a professor, the conventional career options open to most literature graduates in the country. I never took biology in Class XI+XII because I wanted to be a doctor. I was always fond of reading and loved biology. I felt that was enough.
Today when I think of what Anjum said, I find it odd that I got so upset. There was clearly a wide gap between how editing and reporting were perceived. While editing a page in our journalism school would get at most a grade, a byline was met with applause and a cake, literally.
Wasnít that devaluation institutionalized? If so, was Anjum a product of that thought process?
Things changed when I met him after a decade. Anjum and his cinematographer friend told me about an interesting idea for a book about films. Since I had already worked as a commissioning editor for a major publishing house, I told them although their idea had limited market potential, it was a strong idea and needed to be written. I added that they will have to do the leg work and it was going to be a difficult job. A few weeks later, I contacted them and prodded them with suggestions but when I saw a lack of conviction in their idea and determination to see it through, I let it be. Nevertheless, we are still in touch today and I know that if need be, I will help Anjum in his book in some way or the other I can.
My journey as an editor began at that journalism school. While I couldnít be more thankful for my editor-teachers, I know that nobody could have taught me what I feel today. For the longest time, I was afraid of not getting a byline and associated it with not being enough. I thought my writing too was not good enough. Today, I feel a sense of calm and pride in the quality of my ideas, which have developed over a period of time. I feel less bothered that I donít have plenty of bylines incredible platforms.
That I still feel afraid to share my writing is another roadblock to be crossed. I feel as vulnerable as any of my authors do.
And so, what is the big deal about editors anyway?
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
All of us have consumed stories that have been edited even if we donít ever see the editing. The idea behind ĎWhatís editing anyway?í is to bring awareness about editing, editors and its various applications.