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With all the layoffs that just about every major newspaper has gone through over the past few years, reporting staffs have already been chopped to the bone. Or all the way through the bone and out the other side, in some cases. So when the next round of layoffs inevitably comes, where do the cuts come from? A provocative, insightful, and obvious idea: How about firing some more of those freaking editors? Or at least making them do a little more work.

Sure, it goes without saying that smaller staffs suck. If every paper could return to its decades-old glory days of reporters on every metro micro-beat, digging for weeks on corruption in the various sub-offices of the municipal Water and Sewer Authority, our democratic republic could flower once again. But that scenario won't be back any time soon, if ever. So instead of cutting the reporters, who generate actual content, why not cut all those stupid higher-up levels of editing?

As Alan Mutter points out, it's not unusual for a major newspaper story to go through five or six levels of editing. Whereas news aggregators like Google have no editing staff at all, and most blog operations have zero or one editor. And both of those types of organizations are the reason papers are having all the layoffs in the first place.

The underlying problem is bureaucratic structure. In the news business, the only place for most reporters to get promoted is the editing staff. So old-line news outlets are full of career employees who've "earned" an editor's chair. And naturally, no story can make the front page without being subjected to their collective wisdom. Make those people start writing again! Content is King, etc. There are very few news stories that can't be fully edited by one copy editor and one assigning editor (who can theoretically be the same as the editor-in-chief). Reserve the editing jobs for people who are actually good at editing, and allow talented reporters and writers to move up to investigations, or column-writing, or full time blogging. Where they don't need editors, by the way. [via Romenesko]