Many new editors of professional journals think they should handle everything themselves because they know the journal best or they know what they think their journal should be. We, on the other hand, believe strongly in the value of having at least two editors for a variety of reasons that strengthen the journal and offer more diverse options. In fact, co-editing a journal is like any marriage: always a work in progress and a partnership that can work if both are willing to work at the relationship.
Like many partners, we were introduced through those who thought we had something in common, volunteer work with The Clearing House in our case. We had each reviewed articles for years as Consulting Editors and were recommended separately by retiring Executive Editors. We had never met in person until after we had accepted our new positions as Executive Editors. When Taylor & Francis took over the journal, they invited us to their Philadelphia office to meet with our publishing team. That session enabled us to discover how we could work together to lead our journal in new directions.
Now, the two of us have been co-editors for several years and know each other's habits, strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and interests quite well. Ours is a fine editorial marriage of a college professor and a secondary-school writing specialist. We have no control issues, nor do we try to impose our opinions on the other. We view our differences as strengths and depend on each other for support on many occasions. The adage "two heads are better than one" applies to us when either scratches his/her head about a manuscript decision or some related issue with an author or Consulting Editor. "What do think about my reply?" he might ask; “what do you think about the suitability of this manuscript for our audience?" she might inquire.
We share opinions, problems, ideas for theme issues, and suggestions for how we might make ours an even better journal. For instance, we alternate working with guest editors on a special issue of the journal, defer to each other when dealing with articles submitted by colleagues or friends to assure unbiased professional feedback, and collaborate on new ideas for improving the journal. Within the last ten years, one of us suggested we use a personal essay on bullying to counterbalance the research articles we had published on the topic, and the other encouraged an author to write an article on preparing students for writing in college. In both cases, we found that these articles became some of the most frequently cited in the research of others.
We are also well aware that neither of us can be familiar with the topics of every article submitted and call upon the expertise of the other or our research editor to help with methods presented in some articles. Finally, our managing editor works closely with us, often providing updates, emails she has received from irate or appreciative authors, as well as annual reports. Like in any marriage, it is important to keep all lines of communication open and collaborate whenever possible.
Are there downsides to co-editing? If the individuals in the marriage have power issues, fail to communicate as equals with a shared purpose, or have annoying habits or tendencies – say, one is a procrastinator and the other is a very strict observer of timelines for handling reviews– trouble can arise. In our case, such problems rarely emerge, and invariably, we end up helping the other solve a dilemma or improve a critique of a manuscript that has both pitfalls and potential in the publication process. Both of us adore our efficient, long-distance managing editor and look to her for assistance when we can't come to a happy conclusion ourselves. (Perhaps she is something like a good marriage counselor!) We do regret being so far apart geographically – Colorado and South Carolina – although we are close editorially. We enjoyed the one get-together we had at the editorial office of Taylor and Francis and wish we could do this again to meet our managing editor and newer staff while we are at it.
So, yes, our marriage of convenience works well for us and can for other journal editors, if they work at it. We lean on each other for support when needed and seek our editorial partner's wisdom when in doubt. We discuss new members for our fine Consulting Editor cohort when vacancies arise, and when one of us is overloaded or unable to meet a deadline, the other picks up the slack. For us co-editing is a happy marriage, and divorce is not an option!