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Editors Talk about Editing

Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers


Susan L. Greenberg

The work of «editing» is by and large something that happens behind the scenes, noticed only when it is done badly, or not done at all. There is not much information about what editors do. The result is that editing is not often talked about in its own right – not even by the people who do it. This collection of interviews attempts to fill some of the gaps. The author, a former editor herself, interviews practitioners at the top of their game – from newspapers, magazines, broadcast news, book publishing, scholarly editing, academic publishing and digital curation. The interviewees think out loud about creativity and human judgment; what they have in common and what makes them different; how editing skills and culture can be shared; why editing continues to fascinate; and why any of this might matter.
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Chapter 13: Evan Ratliff, Atavist


← 170 | 171 → Chapter 13


Co-founder, editor and CEO, AtavistInterview: Thursday, December 20, 2012Brooklyn, New York

Atavist, a media and software company, launched in 2011. It produces a monthly narrative nonfiction magazine, based on original digital storytelling software called Creatavist that can be used by anyone.

Ratliff, one of the co-founders, brings a perspective strongly shaped by the new media technologies that emerged in the early years of his career. He worked at Wired magazine,1 where he is still a contributing editor. He holds a multiplicity of job titles, reflecting the shape-shifting nature of the publisher’s role.

The interview throws light on the way in which commercial and editorial concerns become intertwined. Even when ‘good writing’ is an undisputed goal, the question remains, how to make it pay? The search for new models of production, distribution and reward therefore becomes essential. The new arrangements may help in turn to create a new editorial lens through which to view work by the next generation of writers.

The publishing model described here gives a high value to editing, but operates in a wider landscape in which writers experience, and readers expect, less and less editorial intervention. In traditional magazine publishing, commercial pressure comes mainly from advertisers or proprietors. In the case of Atavist, it is more likely to come directly from readers. This raises the question, are the readers always right? It is an experiment that...

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