Friday, 26 November 2010

Prosser: Getting to the hub of centralised subbing

Really good article Why the hubs will turn full circle about centralised subbing by Allan Prosser, one of the newspaper industry's most respected experts, in the latest issue of InPublishing magazine.

Allan quotes an editor whose paper was subbed at a hub: “My problem – call me a control freak – was that I had little if any influence over what the pages looked like. Page design? Headlines? Copy fitting and cutting? Picture selection? Signing off pages? All of that was done miles away. None of it was my business – at least that was the position of the subs and the chief sub to whom they were answerable. I carried the blame as far as readers (and sometimes advertisers) were concerned, but had little responsibility.

“The chief sub and staff did, I’m sure, their best… their best to get not only my paper out on time but also the other half dozen or so titles (plus contract jobs) owned by the company. There were many corners cut, and it wasn’t long before I believed that most of them came off my paper, not least because it was the only broadsheet.

“ 'These broadsheet pages,' I was told by the sub assigned to my paper for a day or so each week, 'are really difficult to fill'."

He quotes another journalist: “The problem is that there are very few people left in here who know anything about design, so they can’t express their opinions properly on what they want from the outsourced operation. The paper is full of errors. Every day.”

Allan concludes: "It doesn’t have to be like this. If it was Nissan, they would have specified the job properly. Every worker would have been trained intensively. Style and quality guidelines would be embedded into the DNA of the system. Performance feedback would be constant."

I also liked Allan's anecdote: "Just the other day, I was listening to a fascinating debate between executives about who should be responsible for 'curating' (for that is the modern phrase) a hyper-local website.

"The task involved aggregating multiple sources of information, some provided by professional journalists, some delivered through user-generated content; the ability to update quickly; to make sound professional judgements consistent with the law, ethics and a general sense of publishing responsibility. Also required was local knowledge, commitment, and a disciplined approach to design.

“ 'Do you know what that reminds me of?' I said. 'An old-fashioned sub-editor'.”

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