Tag Archives: subbing

Subbing tip #6: flak or flack?

When someone comes under attack for something or other, many journalists pull out the old anti-aircraft metaphor to describe it. But here, sadly, their ignorance starts to show.

“Flak” comes from a German acronym for anti aircraft fire – Fl(ieger)a(bwehr)k(anone).

A “flack” is a slightly derogatory North American term for a publicity agent.

So ditch that “c” folks – you don’t need it. Unless you are under attack by someone in PR. Then it might work…


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Accuracy level of Guardian now a major concern for readers

My first reaction on seeing this Guardian media headline –  “Literacy level of recruits now a major concern for media, report finds” – was: I know – I’ve said it myself often enough.

But then I read the story. The story says absolutely nothing about general literacy. 

It makes the following points:

  • The industry needs more skilled advertising and media sales staff
  • Freelancers need to be up to date on technology and multimedia
  • Games and other creative industries are reducing the talent pool for journalism
  • Publishing is a highly qualified industry (not highly skilled, notice), with 45% of workers having a degree

Yet it deals with all this under an opening paragraph saying this:

The literacy level of young recruits at newspapers and magazines is becoming a major concern, a training watchdog has warned.

No – it simply hasn’t warned us of this. Not according to this story, anyway. Where’s the evidence? Where’s the reference from the report? Where’s the quote from Skillset?

In fact, the only halfway relevant comment the story offers from the Skillset report is this: 

…traditional skills such as good writing, editing and interviewing were “becoming even more important so that customers are prepared to pay for high quality content”.

Which may or may not be true – there’s actually no clear cut evidence that “customers are prepared to pay for high quality content”, or pay for content at all.

Even if it is true, this comment doesn’t touch on literacy per se – this is talking about communication skills and style, which is a different, if related, thing.

What’s worse, this isn’t just sloppy, sloppy writing – it’s sloppy sub-editing too. Any sub worth their salt would have picked up on this and certainly given it a more accurate headline…


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Why newspapers still need sub-editors #3

Spotted in today’s Metro – a travel piece on what looks like a delightful part of Sardinia. But I think the “gut-busting” lunch enjoyed by the writer has affected her English.

…courses of muscles and clams, fat prawns and melt-in-the-mouth hoops of calamari…

And I thought the Metro was supposed to be a subs’ paper…

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Why newspapers still need sub-editors #2

A really nice example of an “elephant in the living room” typo, from Bill Bennett’s Knowledge Workers’ blog.

As with investigative journalists, you’ll miss the sub-editors when we’re gone.

Won’t stop them getting rid of us though…

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Spies, Facebook, Daily Mail, Nazis

The Mail on Sunday‘s Facebook/MI6 revelations are something of a digital media wet dream, combining espionage, social networking and Nazi historians in a way that is almost the highbrow version of Friday’s midget/wrestling/hooker fest.

There’s a lot going on here of interest – and it’s worth coming back to. But for now, though, it’s enough to point out the Mail on Sunday is almost certainly fudging the facts.

The headline says:

MI6 chief blows his cover as wife’s Facebook account reveals family holidays, showbiz friends and links to David Irving

But at no point does the article really back up the claim that the link to David Irving was revealed through Facebook.

Yes, it says: “Lady Shelley Sawers’ extraordinary lapse […] revealed that the intelligence chief’s brother-in-law – who holidayed with him last month – is an associate of the controversial Right-wing historian David Irving.”

But actually it doesn’t substantiate this. When it comes to the TV and radio actors they know, Facebook photos are reproduced. But the Irving link seems second-hand. 

The Mail’s chain of association is this:

Among those featured in family photographs on the website is Lady Sawers’ half-brother Hugo Haig-Thomas, a former diplomat. 

So far, so good. Well, he’s a family member, so you’d kind of expect that.

Here’s the next link in the chain:

Mr Haig-Thomas is an associate and researcher for revisionist historian David Irving, who was jailed for three years in Austria in 2006 for ‘glorifying the Nazi Party’ because he questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

But the photo of Haig-Thomas at a garden party held by Irving actually comes from David Irving’s site (the Mail credits this in the story); while a quote about Haig-Thomas’s research work for Irving comes from Irving himself – which I doubt is featured on Lady Sawers’ Facebook Wall. 

So what’s going on here? 

I think it’s a bit of careless subbing coupled with wishful thinking. Sure, some material linking Lady Sawers’ half-brother with David Irving might have been on her Facebook page. But is it was, why wasn’t it reproduced? 

I suspect this is the usual Mail-style mix-up that conflates one story (careless management of sensitive digital personal information) with another (Nazi link to top UK spy boss) in a kind of journalistic mash-up.

Which is probably about as close as the Mail on Sunday will get to really grasping the world of social networking and web 2.0. 

More to come, probably – if anyone has any more details about the whole Facebook/Irving link, do share…

[HT: Jessica]

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I would kill to write a headline like this…

Metro_030709Midgets, hookers, wrestling: seriously – what more could a sub ask for?


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Why newspapers still need sub-editors

BernankeI didn’t manage to get this cutting into the blog until today, but this item from the June 17 edition of London financial free paper City A.M. is a stark warning about the perils of doing without a sub-editor.

I like City A.M. – for a freebie it’s a well-put-together paper for the financial/business world and it maintains an appealingly contrarian free market view, in the face of the new Keynsian orthodoxy.

But they really should add a sub-editor to the roster. Mistaking a big picture of US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke for US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is a howler of epic proportions for a financial newspaper.

I’m available for shifts, by the way…

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