What Does an Editor Do?

Last week, I happened upon a post on The Open Notebook blog that included one of my favorite descriptions of how editors work--originally composed by Thomas Kunkel and included in his book Genius in Disguise, a biography of the legendary New Yorker editor Harold Ross:

“In the narrowest sense, editors lay twitchy hands on someone else’s work, fixing it, patching it, polishing it, and generally trying to keep it upright. In the broadest sense, however, they set the agenda, standards, and tone for a publication. They hire and fire; they pick stories, and the writers to go with them. They must have enough ego to confidently steer talented people, but the will to subordinate it. They must assuage prima donnas, compel laggards, and sober up drunks. Equal parts shaman and showman, they must have an unwavering vision for their publication, convey it to a staff, and then sell it to the great yawning public. For these reasons and many others, editing a magazine is not a job suited to the faint or uncertain, and it is enormously difficult to do well.”

I wouldn't call myself a shaman. But I've definitely dealt with prima donnas and laggards in the course of my content career. And if you swap out "magazine" and "publication" for brand and "story" for content, doesn't that sound a lot like what content strategists and brand managers do every single day?