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?