Death of the sub-editor redux

Just been sent a link to Roy Greenslade’s blog in today’s Grauniad [sorry – knee-jerk old sub’s joke on the notoriously badly typeset 1980s style Guardian. Just the sort of SEO unfriendly copy we must now stamp out].

He is part justifying the decimation of the subbing function in many publications – possibly to be farmed out to “subbing pods” in India or Australia.

All good stuff – and I don’t disagree with him. But I do have to take issue with this:

There are other things to take on board too, such as the inflow of a “new wave” of highly-educated, well-trained young journalists with digital knowledge.

I might be idealistic, but I do believe their work – on camera, on video and in text form – will need less scrutiny than used to be the case.

If by “highly educated and well-trained”, he means with a BA or MA in journalism, plus all the internet savvy of a generation with social networking in their veins, maybe. But this is a generation that hasn’t been taught grammar at school, and sees correct spelling as an option, rather than a necessity.

My friend Jess, an editorial training manager by trade, says young journalists look on him with a mixture of pity, bewilderment and scorn when he tries to teach them the basics of grammar. And the students I encounter on journalism colleges simply don’t seem to be bothered by the idea that incorrect spelling is a real problem in their work – even in headlines.

Of course, nor was Shakespeare. Maybe we’ll see the flowering of a new age of linguistic creativity as a result…

(Hat tip: Phil Heard)


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