Tom Standage

has worked as a science and technology writer for The Guardian, as the business editor at The Economist, has been published in Wired, The New York Times, and The Daily Telegraph, and has published five books, including The Victorian Internet

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tomstandage65 karma

I’ve always seen this question from the perspective of a gamer. Do I prefer fighting lots of small enemies while crawling a dungeon, or fighting the boss at the end? I generally find boss fights quite tedious, because they either involve exploiting the boss’s unusual vulnerability, usually heavily signposted, using a recently acquired item (I’m looking at you, Zelda games), or it’s simply a matter of grinding the enemy down (as with a dragon in Skyrim). We could speculate about what the amusing weak spot of a horze-sized Berlusconi might be, but I think I’d prefer to pick off the 100 duck-sized ones. I get to bring all my gear from Skyrim, right?

tomstandage45 karma

They are geared towards a curious alien who has just landed and speaks English. This is why we say things like "Ford, a carmaker".

tomstandage34 karma

When we hire people, we basically ignore the CVs and just look at the sample articles they send in. (We ask people to submit "an article they think would be suitable for publication", or somesuch.) If the article contains a brilliant idea, or is written perfectly to our style, or ideally both, then that person goes on the shortlist. The great thing about our style, from the perspective of being a writer, is that it's pretty clear what the target is that you're supposed to hit. If you can hit it, then your copy will hardly be edited at all as it goes up the editorial chain. If you can't, then it will be edited ruthlessly, which encourages you to try harder next time. This seems to work.

tomstandage28 karma

Fewer than that -- around 80 staff journalists, in fact. And every Monday morning about 40 of them squeeze into the editor's office. I usually sit on a window sill, and many people have to sit on the floor.

tomstandage25 karma

Hey, Totoro! Excellent user name. Unless you really are Totoro?

Anyway, you are one of several people to ask about our no-byline policy. The use of bylines used to be exception rather than the rule in all publications, and we've simply maintained that tradition while other publications have permitted rampant byline inflation (to the extent that some papers run picture bylines on ordinary news stories). We use initials as bylines on many blog posts, particularly on multi-author blogs (such as Democracy in America, our US politics blog) where our writers can and do disagree with each other, and it would then be confusing not to be able to distinguish between different authors. This approach is not without its faults (we have four staff members with the initials "J.P.", for example) but is the best compromise between total anonymity and full bylines, in our view.

The rationale for the lack of bylines in print is that every article should have the collective authorial voice of The Economist (which is also why we edit closely for style); and many articles are collaborations between multiple authors and editors. In practice you can often work out who the main author of an article is. When I covered telecoms, for example, people in the industry knew me and knew that I was responsible for the telecoms pieces. And our media directory shows who covers what at The Economist. So the lack of bylines does not, in practice, conceal the identity of our writers. But it does reinforce the way in which our articles are the product of The Economist's collective hive-mind.

As you note I also respond to questions on Quora, where there's a longer version of this answer.

tomstandage22 karma

Yes. Stelios Haji-ioannou read this article that I wrote in 2003 about the analogy between low-cost airlines and telecoms operators. He was on a plane at the time. He tore out the page and decided to do what it suggested, which was to apply the business model pioneered by TDC, a Danish operator, to the British market. The result was easyMobile, a low-cost mobile-phone operator. It was a disaster. Sorry, Stelios.

tomstandage19 karma

Not that long, because the staff is quite small. Most articles are written by a journalist, edited by a section editor, edited again by the department head, and then proofread. Leaders go to the department head and then the editor-in-chief. So I suppose that's two rounds of editing for most pieces. In practice other interested parties are often asked to provide advice or input, and we also have a floating "night editor" (a job I sometimes do on Wednesdays) to provide an extra pair of eyes.

tomstandage19 karma

Probably the Science & technology section, because that's where I started, so I feel a certain loyalty and fondness towards it, and it was always the section I read first before I joined the staff. My other favourite bits, as a reader, are the obituary and the columns (Bagehot, Charlemagne, etc).

tomstandage18 karma

When we ported our Android app to the Nexus 7 it ran very slowly so we had to fix that. The resulting app has been optimised for Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 but will run on all Jelly Bean tablets. We’re just testing it now and it should be out in February. Sorry it’s taken so long. We have no plans to join Currents.

tomstandage16 karma

Thanks, Akshat! Yes, there isn't really a culture of presenteeism here. Nobody really minds where you are, as long as you do your job.