09 March 2009

Subbing - the debate rumbles on

I wonder if Roy Greenslade honestly still believes that newspapers and magazines don't need subeditors?

Judging by the high level of commentary circulating on the internet, he seems to be in a class of one.

Last week, Tim Luckhurst, a professor of journalism, made a cogent case for teaching subbing skills to every single student hack, as it would equip them with skills for life. I couldn't agree more. Practically every journo I know cheerfully admits that they'd hate to sub their own work, even when they feel they have the skills to sub others'.

The Press Gazette has been hot on Luckhurst's heels today. First it published the subs' howlers hit list, which tickled my funny bone. Every publication I've ever worked on kept one of these and, like the one mentioned in PG, it was usually very lengthy. Then PG printed another leaked rant by Simon Heffer, the Telegraph's "style guru" about the appalling number of errors appearing in copy (clearly, the Daily Dreadnought's subs' desk could do with some intensive training by Prof. Luckhurst!). I feel cheered that people care enough still to keep flagging up why publications cannot afford to ditch their subeditors.

Journalism.co.uk published a link to the copy editor's lament (courtesy of Common Sense Journalism). The song is a hoot and the lyrics are conveniently provided.

It's not just the press that needs skilled copy-editors. Many of my own clients are commercial organisations. Only today, I saved one from the potentially huge embarrassment of putting out a document that stated somewhere in the copy a reference to an "£18 billion pubic service programme".


Somehow, I think Greenslade is losing the fight here. Time to throw the towel in, Roy. You're never going to win this particular argument, expecially when your own blog is full of howlers.

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