Monday, April 21, 2008

What is wrong with subbing?

Mainly, the abuse I get on a weekly basis.

Recently, I've been subbing some articles for the uni journalism paper, and while it has been a great learning experience, it's one that has left me drained.

My role exactly, is to check the spelling and grammar of articles before they are uploaded onto the website/bulletin. This mainly involves correcting a few grammar gremlins, and there's no harm in that. However, some of the stuff that I get to sub is absolute drivel.

It makes me weep for the future of journalism in the state (That's not entirely fair, there's Curtin to consider) if this is what's going to be served up. I admit that my articles haven't exactly been mind-blowing Walkley Award winning journalism either, but they've made three out of four section heads so far. If my drivel is getting section heads, our little thing is in trouble.

This is third year journalism, and I'm getting people who on one end of the scale use language befitting art mags in a general news story, and on the other end I'm getting people making rudimentary mistakes that a fifth grader wouldn't make.

I understand a few typos here and there and lord knows I'm guilty of that, but sometimes it beggars belief that these people were allowed into third year journalism at all.

Now, I could send feedback along the lines of "you suck, don't EVER become a journalist", but I bite my tongue. I tell them what is wrong, but I suggest ways they could improve their writing. Most people really appreciate the high level of feedback I give and have said so, but every week, without fail I'll get an email saying that "ur really unfair nd mean!".

I usually reply to these emails by clarifying further some of the criticism I leveled at them, and sometimes this works, but most of the time I just get abuse.

Forgive me if I go into ranting territory, but I sure as hell hope this isn't the treatment subs get out there in the real world. I really hope that professionals are able to get over the sting of criticism and analyse the feedback, take it on board and not do it the next time.

I should qualify this post by saying I'm getting less now then when I started, so maybe word is getting out about my subbing style and people are getting less offended, I don't know.

Again, I apologise for the messy structure of this post, but I felt the need to get this stuff of my chest in a somewhat constructive manner.

I've tried to walk on eggshells, but some people just need to be told that their work in unacceptable, after all, my name is going on this publication, and any bad journalism or writing is going to associated with myself when prospective employers look at the bulletin.

Anyhow, my rant is over, and to end it, I'm going to list the top five mistakes I've seen while sub editing.

1. its/it's - Seems like they would've sorted this out in primary school, but no.

2. plurals- I'm not immune from this, and it comes up time and time again when people write about a band/group. For example, 'RATM are touring' is technically incorrect. You'd write this as 'RATM is touring'.

3. too much colour- I suspect this is from people thinking they're the next Oscar Wilde and cluttering their copy with metaphors, similies, personification and all sorts of bells and whistles, while the crux of the article suffers.

4. flowery language- People don't seem to think that writing journalism is any different from writing an academic essay sometimes.

5. judgments- When people write about a subject and seem to think they need to be an expert on the subject, so the make snap judgments. For example 'this technology is the best type ever!' indicates that the journalist is an expert has the necessary qualifications to make a judgment like that. They fucking don't. Just present the facts and let the reader make up their own minds.

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