Media commentator Roy Greenslade has claimed that sub-editors are now a layer in the publishing industry which can be "eliminated". In a debate on out-sourcing at the Publishing Expo at London Olympia yesterday, Greenslade voiced his opinion that some forms of sub-editing could indeed be outsourced.
Greenslade distinguished between the indispensable "creative people who put together our popular, mass-market papers, such as The Sun" and "subs working on serious quality newspapers [to templates] and that can be sent elsewhere". "I produce copy that goes straight on screen - why can't anyone else do that? You can eliminate a whole structure... commercially, we have to do it," he says.
But the comments following the article on Press Gazette are far from convinced on the Greenslade's stance. "This would explain the constant errors in copy in Greenslade's blog," said one, "[He] bemoans the death of the newspaper industry and then does his best to see a whole raft of journalists lose their jobs," read another. Greenslade discusses both eliminating and out-sourcing subs. The latter is a matter of great debate; outsourcing has major financial benefits but simultaneously the detachment of a sub desk from the newspaper, particularly if then assigned to more than one publication, could cause issues over integration and dedication.
The relationship between journalists and sub-editors is not always a smooth one - as the letter from popular Times columnist Giles Coren to the sub-editing desk over the removal of an essential 'a' in his review, and their subsequent response demonstrate. It would be interesting to debate how much of Greenslade's stance stems from that traditional rivalry between editors and journalists; how much from a genuine belief that sub-editors are largely replacable; how much from a mild arrogance and confidence in his own journalism and how much from a sheer desire to be provocative. But to do so would be speculation.
Greenslade's suggestion that journalists edit their own copy, as they are now often "highly educated" has numerous and very visible flaws. No matter how many years of experience a writer has, there is an undeniable benefit to having a second eye glance over an article to pick up on small errors that could potentially otherwise go un-noticed. Errors, no matter how small, imply a lack of professionalism. It is this professionalism which is one of the few remaining things that differentiate articles by qualified journalists in professional publications from the wealth of citizen journalism available on the web. Eliminating sub-editors would undoubtedly save money, but could the cost to quality journalism be higher?
Source: Press Gazette