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English is not my native language, so may be I overlooked something obvious?

I seen in few places that "editor" and "redactor" in context of magazine or newspaper are not the same, but can't find a good explanation of the difference.

Thanks.

  • For a start, "redactor" is much less common. In fact, I'm a native speaker, and I don't even have a clear idea of what it means--I'd have to look it up. – herisson Apr 16 '16 at 0:02
  • I've never seen "redactor" in English, either. It's the Russian word for editor (редактор). – Mike Harris Apr 16 '16 at 0:05
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    The only use of "redact" I normally hear is sense 3), removing sensitive material from a document before publication or sharing, so I would think a redactor is specifically a person who performs that action, while an editor is someone who does the broader tasks of grammar-checking, fact-checking, proofreading, content management, etc. – Hellion Apr 16 '16 at 0:21
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    Although the dictionary definition of redact includes a meaning synonymous with edit, that meaning is all but unknown in the US, and the vast majority of readers would take the term to mean the removal (censorship) of "sensitive" information and nothing more. In that vein, redactor would be synonymous with censor. – Hot Licks Apr 16 '16 at 2:22
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I have worked at dozens of magazines and newspapers, as well as for a number of book publishers, and at none have I ever heard of a redactor. When I traveled in France and explained to people what I did, they called me a "redacteur," but I have never been called that in English. In English, "Redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and altered slightly to make a single document. Often this is a method of collecting a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and coherent work." So, yes, in English, a redactor is a kind of editor, but this particular kind of editing is not much called for at magazines or newspapers. These media largely rely on original material. Editors are required to hire writers, to define the parameters of what is written, and to improve the writing and put it into publishable form, to report and analyze news, to profile celebrities, to review new books and movies, etc. They do not generally combine previously published text to create new documents. This is often more the realm of scholars, who combine various texts from antiquity, for example, to create a new work. The Bible was redacted, The Book of One Thousand and One Nights was redacted.

It has been pointed out that redactor sometimes means "censor" as well. This is true, but, again, you won't find censors at newspapers or magazines, at least censors as we commonly think of them--as those who expurgate offensive material. The film industry and TV have used censors in their histories (and they were called censors, not redactors), but the print media has always been more protective of their First Amendment rights, and more willing to go to court to fight for them. Such lawsuits have followed the publication of works by Nabokov, Joyce, etc. Also, the NYT found itself in court after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and even today is fighting against the Obama administration in cases involving its reporter James Risen. Newspapers and the government are frequent adversaries on matters of censorship.

Having said this, there is a relation between what a traditional editor does and what a censor does--they cross things out. Editors famously use (or, before computers, did use) blue pencils to cross out material they want to delete from a text, possibly because it is offensive, or at least not in keeping with the tone of the publication in which the text will appear, but more likely because of space considerations, improper grammar, irrelevant tangents, etc. etc. In this sense, a redactor and an editor do the same thing.

But, in short, the word redactor is never used in American publishing.

  • @Konstantin Isaev This morning's NYT carries an editorial pertaining the the U.S. bombing of a Doctors W/o Borders hospital in Kunduz, in which it says that the military is currently "redacting" a review of the attack for public review. In this case, "redaction" means the blacking out or deletion of sensitive text in a document, i.e., censorship. Again, this is not a publishing term; here, it is a military function. Whether military censors are called redactors or not, I do not know. – user66965 Apr 21 '16 at 12:43
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A redactor (redacter?) in the newspaper trade during the 1960s was one who typed onto rolls of paper (original plus carbon copies) spoken information taken from a primitive telephone answering machine. My mother did this for a few years at a daily newspaper in north Florida during this time. I can't recall the name of the recording device, but reporters from the various bureaus throughout the state would phone in and leave their stories on the recording device. The machine utilized flat, circular bands of soft plastic (four or five inches wide) to capture the reporters' stories. The redactor's job was to play and re-play each story until she captured the story on paper using a typewriter. Mom wore a single earphone for better comprehension since the news room was a noisy place most of the time. Naturally there were queries back and forth between bureau reporters and the state news desk for clarifications of all sorts.

Within a few years this technology became obsolete, replaced by fax machines and first-generation computers. Which was a good thing!

MH

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    Sounds a horrid job. These days Federal workers redact classified documents before sending them to congress or other groups. Those wielding the Magic Markers would logically be called redactors. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 8 at 4:20

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