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Sub-Editors Can Go! Greenslade.

Roy Greenslade is arguing that many, probably most, sub-editors are no longer needed. I disagree. Seems to me that in all the new media experiments (wikipedia, for example), the role of editor/sub-editor subtly reinvents itself, no matter what you call it. He is right that big changes in thinking are needed, but I think we still need subs.

Certainly I wish I had one on this blog, to save me from the typos, if nothing else.

UPDATE: Greenslade has written another post on this issue, responding to furious critics.

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  • 1
    Tim Foyle
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I would sub for your blog. But I’ve never heard of blog-subbing before. How would it be organised, if bloggers did start doing this?

  • 2
    Margaret Simons
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    In this case Tim, kindly telling me about the typos before too many people notice! I was never a good proofreader of my own work, and writing and posting fast, as a news blog demands, makes the problem worse. Any volunteer subs: you can embarrass me by telling me about the typos in comments (which I may well deserve), or tell me privately on Margaret@MargaretSimons.com.au.

  • 3
    Tim Foyle
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Ok. I was actually thinking about the idea of blog-subbing introduced in your post, and thought that a whole new type of blog software would need to be designed.

    Nobody would want subbing to interfere with immediacy.

    Subbed blog software would probably need separate sub logins with slightly different properties from publisher logins, tags to identify subbed and unsubbed posts, and a facility for publishers to approve subbed edits.

    Posts could still be published immediately, and automatically tagged as ‘unsubbed’ (so readers could tell). Subs would be able to login and edit copies of posts, but not publish. Publishers would be able to see subbed edits and republish posts – this time automatically tagged as ‘subbed’.

    The software could also automatically notify subs and publishers (perhaps by email or twitter or a specialised RSS feed) when new posts are published and subbed.

    Writers collaborating on a blog could even sub for each other.

    I wonder what would happen if bloggers began working with subbed-blog software – would content improve, and would bloggers adopt a more journalistic approach?

  • 4
    Margaret Simons
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Good idea, Tim. Anyone know who could develop such a thing?

  • 5
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Roy is playing both sides of the fence a little here, Margaret. he’s saying he sees a vast amount of value in what sub-editors do, but argues that in times of financial constraint what matters is the reporting, rather than the editing. He’s flying a little in the face of his own organisation (Guardian News & Media) here, as they would argue these days that “context” rather than “content” is king and journalists’ main task is to “curate” as much as “create” (in other words, preside over the way a news or comment piece/idea/set of pictures, video, graphics etc., is presented online to attract and nurture an audience). Presumably a good sub-editor would be trained to curate as well as anyone.
    Where this leaves the gumshoing that provides the hard-to-get facts is not yet clear. And one of the commenters on Roy’s Guardian post (or is it Roy?) notes that perhaps the time spent carefully combing one’s copy might be better spent working the phone or pounding the pavement to get that last killer fact or quote.
    Personally, I persist in thinking that the quality of the news experience will be key – so, not just good stories (the reporters’ role) but well-designed websites and elegant, readable language (step forward the subs). Some reporters (oh, alright then, many reporters) can do elegant and accurate, but in my experience some cannot and rely on being edited to save them from embarrassment or, worse, litigation.
    Its down to the cash-strapped mastheads to work out the right mix that won’t compromise either task. Not an easy judgement, I suspect.

  • 6
    Volunteer Blog-Sub
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Margaret Simons asks to be blog-subbed.

    ORIGINAL: “In this case Tim, kindly telling me about the typos before too many people notice! I was never a good proofreader of my own work, and writing and posting fast, as a news blog demands, makes the problem worse. Any volunteer subs: you can embarrass me by telling me about the typos in comments (which I may well deserve), or tell me privately on Margaret@MargaretSimons.com.au.

    BLOG-SUBBED

    “In this case, Tim, it is to kindly tell me about my typographical errors before too many people notice! I have never been a good proof-reader of my own work. Writing and posting fast, as a news blog demands, makes the problem worse. If volunteer sub-editors wish to embarrass me, they can highlight my errors by submitting comments to my blog. I may well deserve it. Alternatively, they can email my private address at Margaret@MargaretSimons.com.au

  • 7
    Margaret Simons
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Um, thanks…

  • 8
    Tim Foyle
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Volunteer Blog-Sub, what did you do with Margaret’s voice? I would probably just fix typo’s and spelling, and be a bit more flexible with grammar, for a blog. Bernard Keane could probably do with some of your subbing though.

  • 9
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Roy has posted an update today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2009/feb/16/newspapers-local-newspapers
    It hasn’t cut much ice with the outraged subs, as you’d expect.

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