Meet the Editors, Part III
August 1, 2016
Over the past few months, you have had a chance to meet some of the great minds of Britannica: John Rafferty, the Associate Editor for Earth and Life Sciences and Melissa Petruzzello, our Assistant Editor of Plant and Environmental Science. This week’s focus is on our Executive Editor and Chief Development Officer for Editorial. Meet Theodore Pappas!
Ted has been with the company since 1998. He attended Beloit College, where he earned a B.A. in history, and Harvard University, where he completed his M.A. and doctoral course work in history. He has appeared on The Today Show, CBS Evening News, FOX News, NPR, and BBC Radio, and his writings have appeared in the American Scholar, the Chicago Tribune, New York Post, among other publications.
Did you grow up on Britannica? Yes, I did. I remember practicing writing by copying a Britannica entry on Benjamin Franklin. I copied it many times, spurring my lifelong interest in good prose, history, and engaging historical narrative.
What is your favorite entry that you have prepared for Britannica? My favorite Britannica entries are the ones I’ve had the pleasure of commissioning from assorted contemporary leaders and pioneers, from the world of politics and social policy to prominent athletes, including President Carter and President Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ted Turner, Lee Iacocca, and such athletes as Chris Evert, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tony Hawk.
How has the editorial process changed throughout the years? How has technology impacted it? The ability to publish instantaneously and to update 24/7 with both text and multimedia is the most significant change in publishing by far. With the explosion of digital outlets for information, reference publishers have been forced to both expand their coverage and expedite their procedures to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive market.
What is it about the work we do at Britannica that makes you most proud?
I know of no other business venture in the world that has never ceased operation through four centuries while not only adapting successfully to staggering technological change—from the Age of Steam to the World Wide Web—but doing so with their integrity and commitment to quality intact. It’s an amazing story, one in which I’m proud to play some small part.
If you didn’t become an editor, what would you have done instead? I would be a professional pianist. I studied music for 15 years.
What are your most prized possessions? My three children!
If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would it be? Easy! George Washington. The American fight for independence and for a successful democracy on such a grand scale was unparalleled in history, and without the guiding force of precedent, he shouldered more pressure and responsibility over a longer period of time, and did so with honor during both wartime and in peace, than nearly anyone who ever lived.