Collaboration Pays Off: Four Questions with Jack Hart

Interviews
Jack Hart

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as an editor?

The most important thing I’ve learned is that collaborative editing with writers at the front end of the story process pays off with time saved at the back end. (Not to mention much better stories.)

What has been the biggest surprise of your editing life?

My biggest surprise was how critical structure is to great storytelling … and that even novice narrative writers who grasp the essentials of structure can produce national quality work. 

If you had to use a metaphor to describe yourself as an editor what would it be?

As an editor, I aspire to be a seagull, effortlessly soaring on rising air currents provided by the writer. 

What’s the single best piece of editing advice anyone ever gave you?

Resist the urge to start correcting the small stuff on your first pass through a manuscript. Instead, you should read the entire piece through thoughtfully, thinking hard about structure, theme, tone, and the other large questions that are far more important to reader impact than the easy copy-editing and polish corrections that can distract you on a first pass through a piece.  

Jack Hart is an author, writing coach, and former managing editor at The Oregonian, where he also worked as a reporter, arts and leisure editor, Sunday magazine editor, training editor, and editor at large. He has additional reporting experience at two other newspapers, holds a University of Wisconsin doctorate in Mass Communications, taught at six universities, and was a tenured associate professor at the University of Oregon, where he served as the journalism school’s acting dean. In 2012-13 he served as director of the school’s Portland campus, the George S. Turnbull Center.

At The Oregonian, Hart worked as an editor on four Pulitzer Prize winners and was the solo editor on two of them. He also edited national winners of the American Society of Newspaper Editors writing awards, the Ernie Pyle award, the Scripps-Howard business-writing award, the Overseas Press Club awards, the Headliners awards, and the Society of Professional Journalists feature-writing award. He is the author of The Information Empire, a history of The Los Angeles TimesSkookum Summer: A Novel of the Pacific Northwest, A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work; Storycraft: A Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction (second editions forthcoming.)

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