Do we still need editors?

Amazon chief executive and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (right) and former Post publisher Donald Graham attend the funeral service for former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee at the Washington Cathedral on Oct 29, 2014.With self-publi
Amazon chief executive and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (right) and former Post publisher Donald Graham attend the funeral service for former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee at the Washington Cathedral on Oct 29, 2014.With self-publishing tools and sites like Youtube and Amazon Create Space around, it is tempting to ask: Are editors still needed? -- PHOTO: REUTERS

With self-publishing tools and sites like Youtube and Amazon Create Space around, it is tempting to ask: Are editors still needed?

Or maybe we can even ask the question - are publishers still needed? 

Content creators and writers, especially budding ones, often ask the question because the ability to put your work literally seconds after you have created it, versus the wait of weeks for newspaper publishing and sometimes years for book publishing can sometimes drive even the most patient content creator up the wall sometimes.

As a writer, I have sometimes struggled with the question. But the answer I often give myself is, if I simply put out my work with the click of a mouse, will it be credible? It depends I guess on what you are putting out. For Facebook and blog posts, there is often no issue about immediately posting your thoughts and musings online, except perhaps your own good judgement. But for more permanent and serious work that you would like to be taken seriously, then I submit that editors and publishers, more than ever, have a place in this world.

A good editor is like a good mother, who before sending her child off to school, tells her son to brush his hair or his teeth before leaving the house. The rebellious child, sometimes taking himself more seriously than he should, feels that "his art should not be compromised by the gatekeepers."

I have heard this argument before, and while I have not always been happy with the way my previous opinion pieces or books have been edited, still agree that it is needed.

Often, it is the young and inexperienced content creator who feels this way, whether he or she is a writer, a filmmaker, or a composer.

It is hard sometimes to argue that a second pair of eyes (or ears) is sometimes the best way, after the exchange of ideas between the editor and content creator, to bring out the best in a book or a film or a song.

The web is riddled with amateurish or substandard self-published books, home-made videos, and other works done by creators.

I do not look down on people who do this - once upon a time, I was one of them, perhaps at a phase when I felt that gatekeepers were not needed.

There are a few really good self-published books and films out there, but these are oftentimes the exception and not the rule.

The creators of these works took the time to show their work to their qualified peers and mentors who may have offered suggestions how they could improve their work. So these exceptions tend to strengthen the argument towards having editors after all.

For young content creators out there, take it from someone who began to learn writing with pen and paper, graduated to a typewriter during high school, and eventually learned how to use Wordstar and Word.

Despite the availability of spell check and grammar review on these word processors, sometimes it helps to recognise that oftentimes the best works of art are a product of suggested changes between the creator and the editor.

Beyond that, taking the time to look for a publisher by submitting your work one at a time and in a respectful manner may be a 19th century practice, but one that can give more credibility for your work, especially if it is aimed for an academic or even the general populace as a whole.

After all, starting your book with a Forward (and not a Foreword), is a quick guarantee for your work not to be taken seriously.

Dennis Posadas is the author of Jump Start (Singapore: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009) and Greenergized (UK: Greenleaf, 2013). He is currently working on a new business fable on corporate sustainability.