The point of this whole shebang

At the moment, I sub for a living.  As a student, subbing was my dream job. (Now I dream of having the authority to make some long overdue changes to certain newspapers’ websites, but that’s another post.)

The trouble is, now that I am a sub, I find the job is not what it once was.

Partly that’s the fault of subs themselves, who no longer consider it their job to rewrite copy, remove cliches, check facts or query the angle but are content with ‘making it fit’.

And partly it’s down to that oft-repeated ‘truth’: subs aren’t needed for the internet.

So print subs resign themselves to becoming irrelevant. And as a result, they become irrelevant.

I disagree.  Here’s three of the reasons why:

1. In many newsrooms the internet revolution is still in its infancy. And I’ve never been in a newsroom where a reporter and news editor have the time to produce two distinct versions of a story for each medium. Who’s going to take the print copy and sub for the web (and of course vice versa)?

2. Web headlines are an art. we all know how important geo-tagging and SEO is. But if you want a web headlines that don’t consist solely of place names and SEO terms, you need someone with skill and imagination.

3. Similarly, the web intro that is all the reader sees of the story.  Should it be the same as the one that has appeared/will appear in the paper? What about your feature content?  How we sell the story to the reader is, if anything, more important than in print.

Now I know there will those who say reporters can do all that, the Northcliffe give-them-a-box-and-
they’ll-fill-it school of subbing.

But I’ve never been in a newsroom where they were doing successfully. And I’d bet that’s the case in lots of the smaller regional newsrooms.

So the challenge for the sub who wants to survive is to make themselves relevant. Don’t just upload what you’re given in the form you’re given it. Apply the skills that got you the job in the first place.

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