Editing in the Time of Covid
As we enter 2022, it’s time to ask how editors have fared during the pandemic and what lies ahead. When the world as we knew it suddenly shut down in March 2020, we feared for our health and our livelihoods, uncertain what might transpire. How have we done?
For most editors, it seems, work continued as before, though two changes in particular have affected us: where we work and the drive for inclusiveness. In-house editors have experienced the biggest change in their workplace, with many moving from their employer’s office to a home office and mimicking the freelance lifestyle — dressing as they please and brewing their own coffee. Simultaneously, Zoom and other virtual communication platforms replaced face-to-face meetings, chats and instruction.
Some people complained that the downtown cores of our cities were dead, the streets deserted, the office towers empty. But the reverse was true in residential areas, where our homes were occupied day and night, parks were full of people walking dogs or riding bikes, and renovations sprouted everywhere — often to create home offices. Because publishing and communications — the areas in which most editors work — can generally be done at a distance, many professionals now don’t want to return to the “office grind” of daily commutes and inflexible hours, so it’s likely a hybrid system will evolve. Three or four days a week, the in-house staff will work from home, and they’ll return to the office as needed.
The pandemic coincided with powerful grassroots movements for inclusion — Black and Indigenous Lives Matter as well as demands for greater representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and other marginalized groups in all professions and industries. The response has been immediate and positive in most publishing and communications companies, arts organizations, and government departments. Penguin Random House Canada, for example, implemented an inclusivity policy in both acquisitions and staffing. The Art Canada Institute, an art-book publisher, announced five annual Redefining Canadian Art History Fellowships for research on overlooked groups. Recent literary prizes have been remarkable for the diversity of authors on their shortlists, and booksellers report increased sales of anti-racism titles and books by Indigenous writers.
With greater leisure time for some during the pandemic, Canadians read more books than in previous years, patronizing local bookstores and libraries or ordering online. Aspiring authors also had more time to write, and many chose the indie publishing route, providing ample work for editors, designers and hybrid publishers. Given the huge increase in e-business, it’s clear that professionals with online writing, editing, visual and technical skills will be in high demand.
It’s no surprise, then, that the number of students enrolled in publishing and communications programs in universities and colleges has spiked over the last year. Careers in these areas have long attracted intelligent, creative and well-trained individuals, but job opportunities have not always been available for all. Now it seems that advances in technology and changes in the way our society works have combined to make editing a good career choice. When we emerge from the tragedy of COVID-19, let’s hope this trend continues into the future.
What has your experience been as an editor over the last two years? Please share your stories so we can get the full picture.
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