A Word of Thanks to All Editors

The passing of Pharmacy Times editor, Kirk McKay, has reminded me of how important the work of an editor is. He will be missed.

It came as shock when I learned that the Editorial Director for Pharmacy Times, Kirk McKay, had recently passed away after a 3-year battle with colon cancer. I read this while browsing my copy of the print issue, where chairman and CEO Mike Hennessy, Sr. described Kirk as a man whose “passion and dedication to his work, and his team did not falter once during his long and courageous journey coping with a vicious disease.”

I, as with many other pharmacy writers, knew Kirk from our interactions with him during the content creation and submission process. I had emailed him back and forth many times. Yet I never knew, until now, that for much of that time which we were pleasantly interacting about articles, he was secretly battling a notoriously difficult form of cancer. Kirk was pleasant, encouraging, and responsive to my many questions. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and co-workers who obviously knew him much better than I ever would. Still, this stranger on the other end of the email exchanges will miss him.

His passing has gotten me thinking about 'editing' in general, and the difficult job of an editor, transforming content into print-ready material. Kirk’s LinkedIn account described him as having “23 years of editorial experience, including managing, editing, and writing print and online content for medical and veterinary professionals, and for consumers.” Kirk was a veteran in the field of editing, a craft and talent that often, in my opinion, goes unnoticed.

I have been personally grateful for the hard work, and patient prodding of editors I have encountered along my rocky road as a pharmacy writer. The work of a good editor is often invisible. You only notice their existence when something goes wrong. You see their handiwork not so much by their appearance as by their hidden strategy to produce well-written and interesting articles for the readers of their journal, blog or magazine. When you visit a website like Pharmacy Times and browse through hundreds of pages of relevant content, know that behind the scenes is the tireless labors of an effective editor.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, forgive the cliché, then editors are like literary lieutenants leading an army of would-be writers into battle. Speaking of words, someone has said: “handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” Words are powerful, and editors must wallow in words every day.

Today’s readers arguably have shorter attention spans than any previous generation. The effective editor must bear this in mind as they oversee the assembly of every syllable of material arranged for their audience. They must turn a clever phrase, and arrest the mind of easily distracted readers, all while watching for mindless misspellings and poor punctuation.

Editors also have to deal with egos. That is, they have to chop out sentences, and paragraphs that writers produce, and deal with the fallout of having messed with their creations. I’m sure many-an-editor has had to endure the furor and frustration of an author who couldn’t believe his writing was so bad that it needed that much correction. It did. And you can thank an editor for doing it. They saved you.

And so, once again, my heart goes out to the loved ones of our friend Kirk McKay. And my heart goes out to all the many editors, editorial directors, and proofreaders out there that make reading a pleasant experience rather than a chore. Your unsung work deserves a chorus of praise. And I, for one, thank you.