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Sad subbies at Fairfax

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 .

Cheers Comrades


  1. Sax says:

    I think you have it partially right Iain ?
    Technology is certainly, I feel, the reason, but not in the way you describe. With the advent of 24/7 news channels, lets face it, by the time you get a paper, the news is stale at best. Added to that, who reads a paper these days ? I know I don’t.
    The news internet sites are very popular, so I for one, go there. I read somewhere, the Melbourne Sun paper, in its heady days, had a circulation of over 600k. Last time I heard, it was just below 200k ? Not hard to see what the end result of that will be ? That is why most of the biggies, have owned the television networks for years. Hey, have a look at Murdoch et al ?

    I think this is only the beginning. I can see papers go down the gurgler and it won’t take long. After all, have a look at how quickly the demise was of the Melbourne afternoon Herald was, when channel 10 introduced their 5pm news service. A newspaper, in operation for over 100 years gone !

  2. Iain Hall says:

    I agree with what you say about the 24/7 news cycle and the way that the internet has irrevocably changed the media landscape. Much content comes form the syndicated wire services and is often used exactly as received. This trend will only continue or even accelerate because anther reason that subbies are becoming irrelevant is that in an on-line world fitting the items to a limited space is not so important either.
    Personally I only ever buy one paper a week and that is only because I want something to read while I take refreshment on my shopping trips. As all of the news services are available and more current than the print versions its only a matter of time before that is the majority of their business rather than the add on.

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