Friday, 26 November 2010

Subbing hubs turning full circle?

Traditional subs? Hubs? Reporters writing directly to the page? Outsourcing? Working from home? In the last few months I have been working with newspapers who are all taking a different approach to how they produce their titles. At the Daily Mail I have been training subs in the usual way - text editing, accuracy, rewriting, headlines and layout. This week I have been with those at the Press Association who are producing the Daily and Sunday Mirrors and the People. With big-hitting former Mirror subs now on the PA team, it is a project that has settled down and is working smoothly. Indeed I have stolen a headline from sub Kay Harrison on Polly Hudson's column - Daybreak's Christine Bleakley: The secret diary of Adrian's moll - for my headline course. I have also been at the Hull Daily offices, not working on the hub, but training 80 reporters to write headlines. The conclusion, not surprisingly, is that bright reporters can be taught to create good publishable headlines. It is certainly right that editors examine the way their newspapers are produced. If I was editing these days I would definitely put my editorial energy into the content and look at ways to reduce the 'processing'. We all know, of course, that in many cases the motivation is not to shift manpower to the reporting side but to cut costs. There has been much written about this and there will be much more to come. Here is the latest contribution Why the hubs will turn full circle  from my old editor Allan Prosser in this month's InPublishing magazine. As usual Allan doesn't sit on the fence. Here is a couple of extracts: 

In the Gadarene rush to impose manufacturing process on their titles, publishers have destroyed value, thrown away knowledge, and vandalised their assets. In many cases they should be ashamed, not that shame is a common characteristic of the newspaper business. More importantly, very few managers who have overseen this damage would last a week in the real world of competitive industry.

No edition of this magazine would be large enough to accommodate the account of howlers, inaccuracies and plain stupidities which have emerged through the centralisation of production and the so-called focus on efficiency through delayering the checks and balances which existed before the move to what has infamously been called “one touch publishing.  

Strident stuff. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.


  1. It's easy for an older editor who can probably afford to retire to knock it, but the next generation has to make these hubs work or lose their jobs.

    The debate shouldn't be how bad these things are - they're here to stay now, and more are coming - the debate is how do we ensure we get the best out of such hubs and keep quality as high as possible.

    The new generation of editors will have to be much more adaptable than the last. We have to keep up with technology, adapt to new and more efficient systems, and guide our staff through the changes.

    What we must never lose sight of is the fact that we are still journalists. I honestly believe I can stick by my old news principles and keep quality high despite these changes.
    In fact, in some cases editors are much freer to edit than they've been in many years, particularly at smaller weekly centres.

    Yes, there will be less checks and balances before, but the best way to avoid major mistakes is for editors to make sure they read every page of their papers before it goes to press - something we should already be doing anyway.

  2. Perhaps I am the only person who finds the generational response to this debate tedious. Commitment to quality does not have a retirement date last time I checked, nor, I think, does interest in technological advance. Call me old-fashioned but "progress" is meant to be just that, and not a retrenchment.