19 November, 2012

A dilemma

My job as the Managing Editor of a magazine involves setting a lot of deadlines. Every time I send an email to someone about the article they've submitted, asking a question about their article, I give a deadline. Whenever I send an article to one of my colleagues to edit, I set a deadline. I have to set deadlines for my production editor, and even for my boss. That sounds a bit harsh, but I've discovered that unless you do, some people just won't bother to reply, or they'll reply in their own time, which doesn't help me keep a magazine on schedule. I try to reasonable, usually allowing four or five days for the review or edit of a single article.

Now I've just had my medicine dealt to me. I've been asked by someone to look at over 90 articles and give feedback on them, for a story-project. "We would like your feedback", is the exact phrase used. I asked for a deadline and got the reply, "Next week".

Huh? Probably they don't expect me to look at all 90 articles, but I think, given my current work load, I might have trouble even reading just a few of the articles, plus giving "editorial feedback" on several.

I wonder about how much experience this person has in editing? It often takes me over an hour just to edit one article, not because they are extraordinarily bad, but because there are many layers of questions to ask, for example:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Is it well organised?
  • Does it answer all the questions it raises?
  • Does the logic hold up?
  • Is the tone suitable?
  • Does it fit the audience?
Then you think about structure, the lead, and the conclusion.

After that you look at more obvious stuff like, spelling, punctuation, etc.

And then I have to decide whether to make the adjustments myself (often easier) or to ask hard questions of the author and get them to make the adjustments (takes longer, but produces a "truer" product).

Part of this dilemma I talked about in this post, when I talked about the "Fuzzy Boundary" problem that we have in volunteer work, which is what missionary work essentially is. I don't have a job description as an OMF missionary. It doesn't exist. So, how much obligation do I have to contribute to a project that someone else in our organisation has dreamed up? Yes, I have editing experience, something not many people in the missionary community have, which means that I feel somewhat obligated to contribute. But I also have a number of other responsibilities that I'm already committed to.

Now, I'm not sure what to do about this story-project. Should I write back to clarify what they expect of me? Should I just do what I can of the articles? Or should I just ignore the whole thing?

Any ideas?


Nancy said...

Wendy, you have a very giving heart, but you are neither responsible to nor able to do everything you are asked. Yes, you are one of the few gifted, experienced, trained editors within the missionary community, but you aren't the only one. And maybe this request needs to look outside the missionary community for help.

Recently Women in Ministry has been happy to ask MEN to help us design our ads because we weren't finding the women who were able or willing to help us.

Personally, I'm capable and gifted in a variety of areas and often get asked to do things I really enjoy doing, CAN do well, and might really like to do. But, my husband has encouraged me to ask myself, not only if this is something God wants me to do (requires a bit of prayer and listending time!), but also, "Is this something that only I can do or is there someone else that could or should do it and my saying "no" would enable them?"

Things to ponder. I'll be praying for and with you cuz' I love you! Nancy

Karen said...

Well, I would be emailing back and saying that that time frame wouldn't allow you to do justice to all 90 articles (do they seriously expect you to look at all of them??). Can they prioritise the most important/urgent ones for you or are they all at an equal level of importance?

Even if you allowed half an hour per article, that is still 45 hours of work! More than an average full time working week....

-J said...

I agree with both ladies above. Another idea is to see if they'd be open to a Skype interview for 1-2 hours for you to train someone else to do the job (maybe not do it as well as you, but at least do it) and then depending on many factors, you might offer to be a consultant. Sort of like in church planting ... how can you multiply people who can do this?

And for an out of the box thought, which goes along with asking men to help with WIM, there may not be trained editors in the missionary community, but there may be some among the supporters, and they may be willing to volunteer some time for the mission. That might not be possible this go around, but it may be a long range goal for you (or the mission) to develop a list of people who are able and available.

Let us know how God leads! Although I'm not an editor, I think this dilemma is one many believers face (for lots of reasons).