Category Archives: Justify my sub

Storking the typo-makers

You can publish then edit all you like but, beware, the original may still be ‘out there’ – and there are people willing to spot it, tweet it, snap it, blog it and generally announce it to the world. Like this one from Tom Ackroyd who took a snapshot of a 3News headline typo tonight (since corrected) and uploaded it to Twitpic before tweeting me:

Too heavy for the stalk: newborn weighs in at 6.4kg

Beauty. It makes me think fondly of all those job adverts for sub-editors asking for the ‘ability to spot a literal at 50 paces’.

Even funnier is that the original 50-pace typo spotter uknzguy has pointed out that the error has been immortalised in the URL.

Note to self:  check my permalinks! Thank Buddha, there’s an edit function in WordPress for just this kind of cock-up.

So you think you’re a good sub?

Would you have checked the Sarah ‘Africa is a country’ Palin story? Turns out this top tale is a hoax anecdote by a fake advisor to McCain, name of Martin Eisenstadt – allegedly checkable with a bit of surfing around the online joint. The wind-up perps, real names Eitan Gorlin and Dan Mirvish, blame sloppy work by traditional news media and by bloggers:

“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish.

Maybe just mention this story if any web types tell you that checks and edits are a ‘nice to have’.

It actually got me feeling sorry for the hockey mom. More on the story at the NY Times

PS I can see a potential future of disclaimers – ‘Status for this story: unverified’. For copy editors, perhaps the line is: if the story sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

PPS Status of this post: unverified and slung up as soon as I heard the news from BhamPostJoanna on Twitter. Cheers Jo G 😉

Google wants more copy editors – not less!

Why? Because its Googlebots aren’t able to do the job of traditional editors and are, in fact, at the mercy of misinformation published direct to Web by news companies in the rush to inform.

Incorrect tagging and unchecked facts have led to major problems, as reported on the editorsweblog following the World Editors Forum.

Despite the ongoing deletion of subs/copy editors from newsrooms, it turns out that Google’s reps at the WEF reckon editors and fact-checking are more important than ever.

It’s a thought backed up by Pete Clifton, senior BBC News exec, who supports journalist gate-keepers (aka editors?) for processing its UGC:

It’s gone through all the filters that our journalism would have gone through. It’s quite labour intensive. We’ve another arm of our newsgathering operation – it can ultimately add to the richness of what we do, but we shouldn’t take it lightly.

Because taking it lightly would compromise the brand’s trustworthiness as well as making it potentially legal liable.

Can’t help thinking that although subs are seen as an editable expense at the moment, those who find money in the budget for them will win in the long run, because, y’know, you like to know where to go to get the facts. Or am I deluding myself?

Would you sub the Welsh?

boingboing1With more redundancies announced today at the Evening Standard and the Independent, perhaps there’s a burgeoning career for someone copy checking road signs?

The Welsh apparently reads, “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” It all went wrong following an automated email response – full story here.

‘I would not become a sub-editor now…

… The future for sub-editing is bleak,’ said Justin Williams, assistant editor of the Telegraph, at the NMK ‘What happens to newspapers?’ event. [Full story here.]

The reason? Because The Telegraph is trialling a post-moderated sub-editing system online in which reporters publish directly to the online edition and await moderation.

Whether moderation is by users via comments or subs direct into the story isn’t clear (to me anyway). But what is noted is that ‘[The future] will not be about the interminable multi-staged editing process’.

Williams notes instead a trend towards content generation (a theme visited in earlier posts as subs are shifted into multi-tasking).

But while newspapers have a brand and quality to protect, they are likely to suffer an amateurisation in the quality of their content through the publish-then-filter model. While this may be acceptable in a fast-paced news environment, which can be corrected over time in a rolling news story, the model could be dangerous for certain topics areas (eg, medical stories), but also for client magazines and websites with a brand to protect.

I don’t agree that the production process has to be ‘interminable’ but a second pair of eyes at least should be in place. Once it’s out there, wrong information goes to RSS almost immediately and an edit even a minute later won’t appear. As a writer I’d be very wary of sending in work without at least some kind of checks in place.

As for client-branded media, they may risk their good name and trusted reputation if they follow The Telegraph‘s lead.

Pay-as-you-go subbing – or whatever it’s called these days

So… yet more subs are being made redundant at both Trinity Regional Mirror and Express Group. Cue a raft of justification pieces on how these skills are not defunct but needed more than ever, and how outlets are making the same old ‘classic error’ – cheers New Statesman! But alas…

…thanks to the lovely internet, history may not be about to repeat itself. In fact, thanks to the fecking internet, me and my fellow subs may actual be becoming a dying breed.

Still there is a seachange of remediation at work here that cannot be ignored, in the same way that scroll writers couldn’t ignore the printing press, much as I’m sure they tried. Traditional models of organisation for publishing aren’t working (as profitably) as before, hence the layoffs and the cutting of the budget. But the skills aren’t redundant – they are just shifting. For me, as predominantly a magazine sub, the entire focus is shifting. I’m now combining writing, subbing, repurposing and conceptualising, whereas before, these were all discrete tasks. In fact, my freelance work used to be 90% sub-editing, 10% freelance writing. This has just about done a complete reversal in recent years, thanks to the internet and a multi-tasking environment. I suspect the task of subbing will remain but the title of sub will disappear.

In which case… rather than being hired to sit in an office on a subs desk doing an eight-hour shift for a publisher on a casual contract, perhaps homeworking is at last becoming an option. So I’m going to test the water and offer pay-as-you-go subbing, and if there are any takers, I’ll be offering top-ups from my wi-fi beach hut in Barbados. I mean if you need the copy cutting, the checks doing, the headlines writing, the legal once-over et al and the deadline is looming but you’ve sacked all your ‘subs’ and don’t have enough online/print multi-taskers on site then… who ya gonna call?

Subs are still sexy

Feeling all aglow in the knowledge that the majority of people do still care about me and my life correct spelling, grammar and punctuation – even on the easy-going internet. After posting a poll on my new e-ddiction Ask500people.com, 82% said they do still care about getting such pernicketty things as punctuation right.

Not only that but 49% said they cared about proper spelling full stop, while only 20% took a more lax view on the internet and 13% only stepped up their game at work and school.

Of course, the mindset of poll clickers means they only tend to vote if they are interested in the subject already, but still… as long as so many people get riled up by the subject, the sub’s role is set to continue.

One of the things I like about ask500people is the global pinpointing… with grammar addicts and spelling bees clicking from as far afield as Colombia, the Philippines, Iran, Ukraine, Senegal, Bolivia and more.

Watching the location pins pop up as people vote is like seeing a graphic version of Bowie/Jagger’s ‘Dancing in the Streets’. Okay, Tokyo, South America, Australia, France, Germany, U.K, Africa… All we need is subbing, sweet subbing, cos there’s typos everywhere… Forgive me, under wordplay restrictions right now so in dire need of an outlet, sob.