Media Talk: The (lost) art of subbing

Media Talk: The (lost) art of subbing; unsung sub heroes; backbenchers in the spotlight; journalistic subsistence; spell check, you bet!*

 "Richard (being the amazing editor he is) pointed out this line: "Gemma taught be absolutely everything", should be 'me' rather than 'be'. And if it's at all possible to make any changes, I majored in 'Painting' and Drawing, rather than printing." - Ebony Bizys, pointing to subbing errors in 'Girl Crush: Ebony Bizys, art director, graphic designer', Friday 6 May, 2011

"The role of the sub-editor is vital in newspaper production. Subs take the copy of reporters and check it for accuracy, grammar and spelling. It may come as a surprise to people with the newspaper-reading habit that not all reporters are literary giants. People who are good at ferreting out facts don't always have the ability to get their tenses right, spell impeccably or know the different spelling and styles used on different publications. Often they're filing from the field, feeding information rather than a polished story...Senior subs and other editing journalists, some working in the creative centre of newspaper production known as the back bench, do more than check copy for spelling. They are a vital part of a collective process, workshopping ideas, testing headlines and contributing to the overall tone of their newspaper." - Mark Day, 'Fairfax hopes to trade on its credibility as it trades in its traditions', The Weekend Australian, May 7-8, 2011

"A common one of mine is to treat "media" as a singular noun, even though I know perfectly well it is the plural of "medium". I only discovered this embarrassing habit on Thursday evening, when a subeditor colleague let me in on it. A fresh pair of eyes found something mine didn't notice. Reporters don't try to make mistakes, but human nature has a tendency to miss even the obvious... While different publishers seek different revenue streams that can pay for their journalism, all newspapers are lowering their production costs, and the significant value of sub-editing comes at a significant cost." - Tim Dick, 'When getting it out is more important than getting it right', The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, May 7, 2011.

"Outside the business, many people think that all subs do is check the spellings and get pedantic about conjunctions. Insiders know better, but there are still two opposing views. One is that subs are the finest exemplars of the craft – "the compleat journalist", as the late and great Claud Cockburn of The Times of London used to say. The other – held by many reporters and feature writers – is that we are a bunch of strange and misshapen creatures who lurk in newspaper offices late at night, intent on butchering their otherwise glittering prose. The truth, naturally, is somewhere in between." - Seumas Phelan, sub-editor, 'Sub-humans practise the invisible art of making a newspaper shine', The Australian, Monday, May 9, 2011.

*Further evidence that GWAS could do with a good, old-fashioned sub-editor!

Girl With a Satchel


Emma said...

Thanks for this compilation - I'd been wanting some content and analysis on this issue and was delighted to find it here before I even went looking for it!
And as a former sub (though perhaps neither a particularly good, nor old-fashioned, one) I think you do a great job of subbing your content.