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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Justin's survival guide for sub-editors

I've been meaning to point to this for a while. It's a post from Justin Williams, workflow guru and assistant editor at Telegraph Media Group in the UK.

He talks about the decline of the role of sub-editors, or rather an evolutionary blurring of the lines between what a sub, a news editor, commissioning editor and web editor does.

"If I was a reporter now and an old hand sidled up to me and suggested that I might like to retrain as a sub, I’d run a mile. And as for joining one of the nationals’ subbing schemes for graduate trainees … fugeddaboutit."
And he makes some recommendations for how working and would-be sub-editors can start updating their skill sets. Here's a few....
  1. Accept that your job is not a long-term or even a medium-term proposition. You’ll find that acceptance of reality is an enormously liberating thing.
  2. If subs start being co-opted onto the newsdesk to work with the editors, hassle and cajole whoever does your rotas to be given the same chance. If this is happening, it won’t be an experiment, merely the start of a process which will see the two roles - news editor and sub - become one and the same.
  3. Learn to use your company’s content management system (CMS). Do this in your own time if you’re not offered formal training. Come in a couple of hours early for a week. It’s a blast.
  4. Learn about search engine optimisation (SEO). Become an expert on it. Constantly check the most popular section on Google News to see what’s playing well. Use Wordtracker to find the most-searched-for terms and tell the reporters and the desk when they’re getting it wrong.
  5. Sign up to Digg, Reddit and six or seven of the other aggregators and start seeding your website’s content. Build networks of friends on the aggregators. Make sure you seed plenty of other stufff, too - you’ll find that other seeders will ignore you if you only propagate one site’s content.
This is worth a read. It gives a good insight into current thinking at the Telegraph, one of the more pioneering media groups in the area of web-first publishing and newsroom integration, and raises plenty of grounds for discussion.

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