24 July 2008

Food for thought

Restaurant critic Giles Coren is the target of much amusement in the hackosphere today. He had the temerity to fire off an abusive email to the subs desk at The Times because one of them cut a one-letter word from one of his reviews.

Giles, Giles, did no one ever tell you that having a go at the subs desk is akin to a waiter pissing in your soup after you told them it was too cold?

Most sub-editors work incredibly hard under appalling pressure to get stuff ready for publication on time. It's a thankless task and not that well paid for the most part. I have written at length about what subs do.

Coren has basically thrown all his toys out of the pram for the sake of an indefinite article, while managing to be abusive, pompous and childish. As a fellow hack pointed out, if half the subs involved didn't get the alleged joke that was "ruined", it's unlikely most of the readers would, too. It wasn't even that funny a joke, anyway, so it not going into print is no great loss.

Most journalists would greatly improve their writing skills by doing a spell on the subs desk. I spent nearly 4 years subbing in London and it made a huge difference to the quality of my writing, as well as giving me enormous insight into how much and how often the subs save the bacon of many a reputation when it comes to fact-checking and flagging up potential legal issues.

Coren is undoubtedly going to get much flak from the Times' subs in future, especially whichever poor sod is on shift when he files his copy. Let's hope they call him up to discuss every single copy change required. One by one.

And with any luck, it'll make any other celebrity writers think twice about being abusive to the skilled subs who polish their turds.

Late PM edit: Coren has been the talk of everywhere today. Someone claiming to be Giles Coren even popped up on Twitter railing against any other hack who dared to comment on his sweary tantrum (although sadly not me). Other journos dug up his winning entry for the 2005 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, to add to the embarrassment. All very distracting. It's amazing I got any work done, what with Coren, Max Mosley winning his case against the News of the World and the Facebook libel case...


Guy Clapperton said...

Well, yeah, but he's only recently lost his father. It doesn't always take a lot to push someone over the edge when something like that's happened. Maybe we should cut the guy some slack?


Unknown said...

An interesting point. I had a major bereavement while subbing at a well-known car mag. I made a fair few errors in my work in my first two weeks back at the desk as I found it hard to concentrate but my bosses were very understanding. I didn't go round hurling abuse at anyone, though, and I don't think the death of Alan Coren is any excuse for the torrent of abuse Coren jnr heaped on the Times' subs. Besides, it's nearly 9 months since Alan Coren died, so I don't think the "temporary insanity from grief" defence applies here.