A couple of weeks ago, Ben Zimmer told me that he was leaving Oxford University Press, where he was Editor for American Dictionaries, to become Executive Producer of the Visual Thesaurus online site. I was happy for Ben's career advancement, but I had another reaction that had nothing to do with him. When I talk with undergraduates about the jobs that studies in linguistics might prepare them for, "executive producer" has never been one of them. Before now.
So I'm sorry to say that the announcement on the Visual Thesaurus web site calls him "Our New Editor". This is an honorable title, but one that I feel is less likely than Executive Producer to appeal to the youth of today. However, the job description posted to Media Bistro was headed "Executive Producer / Content Editor", and explained that
The award-winning Visual Thesaurus is looking for an Executive Producer to manage all editorial of its online magazine on language and the creative process.
Apparently "producer" — executive or otherwise — which I think of as a title for people in movies, TV, and radio, has (long since) been adopted for analogous jobs in internet and other non-traditional media activities. Looking around on the web, I find things like these (emphasis added):
Before that, he worked at The Economist Group's Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for 18 years. During his tenure there, he was the executive producer and editor-in-chief for eight years, and a senior editor in the London office for 10 years.
Mike Stuckey was a member of the MSNBC.com launch team and has been a producer and editor for the Web site since 1997.
I previously worked as a producer and editor at washingtonpost.com. I joined the Web site in 1997 as senior producer for politics, was later Metro editor, and was named editor in 2000, serving three years as the second-in-command of editorial operations.
Ben's former colleagues at OUP are no doubt scrambling (in a deliberate and dignified way, of course) to catch up with this development. The current entry for producer, in the online version of the OED, has
5. A person responsible for the financial and managerial aspects of staging a play, opera, etc., or making a film or broadcast; (also) a person who supervises the making of a musical recording.
and the entry for the verb produce has
2.d. To bring (a performance) before the public; to administer the staging of (a play, opera, etc.) or the financial and managerial aspects of (a film, broadcast, etc.); to supervise the making of (a musical recording), esp. by determining the overall sound. Also occas. intr.
Apparently internet media — even those that strongly print-based — are taken to be among the cetera in "a play, opera, etc." or "a film, broadcast, etc."
Ben assures me that his well-known scholarly probity will not change: there will be no lexicographic casting couch at Visual Thesaurus.
[The Visual Thesaurus job ad says that the Executive Producer will "manage all editorial of its online magazine". At first, I thought this must be a typo, resulting from inadvertent omission of "content". But could there be a new nominal form of editorial struggling to be born? I guess it would be a mass noun meaning something like "content other than advertising", as in "We've got about 20% more editorial than we need for this issue", or "Corporate says you'd better produce some editorial that gets linked on fark.com, or else." I don't see any evidence on the web for this development, but I'm obviously not very well informed about insider language on the business side of the new-media industries.]