As an avid follower of the media, its trends and moods, I of course take an interest in significant developments and here is one that caught my eye yesterday:
Almost 100 sub-editors positions will be cut as part of plans to transform newspaper production by outsourcing the process.
Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood yesterday prompted threats of strike action when he announced the sub-editing of news, sport and business at the flagship mastheads would be moved to Pagemasters, an external company owned by Australian Associated Press.
The “subs” edit stories, check facts, wording and spelling, watch for legal problems, lay out pages as well as write headlines and captions.
Fairfax journalists met yesterday to express concerns that taking this function away from the editorial floor would not only cost jobs but also reduce the quality of finished copy.
Its just that I wonder what an unemployed sub-editor can possibly do next? Maybe they could try writing books, but if they have already had a go at that and they have produced only duds for their publisher that option will not keep them in Chai Lattes, Hmm its a tough one…
But more seriously this issue seems to me to be one of the relentless march of technology making the mechanistic job of sub-editing a newspaper not so much less important but able to be accomplished far less expensively. After all in the age of spell-check does Fairfax really need that expensive extra layer of scrutiny for their copy? Personally I feel for about 99% of the sub-editors who are about to lose their jobs. It is always tough to have to re-invent your life when its foundations are shaken by events beyond your control, but as scions of “progress” and “progressive thought” they will just have to wear it won’t they? Strangely if they do decide to strike they may just prove that their role is in fact as management clearly thinks it to be, less than necessary these days .